Posts Tagged ‘smart grid’

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Timely Trade Policy Mission to Japan Yields Insights on Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Business Opportunities

December 27, 2012

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Cora Dickson is a Senior International Trade Specialist in ITA’s Office of Energy and Environmental Industries.

On a windy morning in early December, I stood on an observation platform gazing out over the sea of solar modules, and beyond that, the Pacific Ocean– or more precisely, Matsushima Bay, one of Japan’s “three most scenic spots.”  I was joined on the platform by several U.S. companies, officials and colleagues from the International Trade Administration (ITA) and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and workers from the Tohoku Electric Utility who were taking us on a tour of their solar power station.  The view was so breathtaking that it was hard to believe that in March 2011, the land where the solar panels now existed was covered by over 16 feet of water and debris from the tsunami.

International Trade Administration and Department of Energy employees pose for a photo with trade mission participants and workers from the Tohoku Electric Utility on an observation platform above Matsushima Bay in Japan in December 2012.

International Trade Administration and Department of Energy employees pose for a photo with trade mission participants and workers from the Tohoku Electric Utility on an observation platform above Matsushima Bay in Japan in December 2012.

This was the final stop in our “Tohoku (Northeast) Tour” to Fukushima and Miyagi, prefectures that are committing themselves to rebuilding with green technologies after being hit hard by the earthquake and tsunami.  The U.S. companies that signed up for the U.S.-Japan Renewable Energy Policy Business Roundtable in Tokyo on December 3 were given the option to take this tour, which also included courtesy call meetings with officials of both prefectures.

Led by ITA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing Maureen Smith and DOE’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Phyllis Yoshida, the trade policy mission accomplished its goals: to gain insights into the evolving policy and regulatory landscape for renewable energy and smart grid in Japan.  It was tied to our bilateral discussions, known as the U.S.-Japan Clean Energy Policy Dialogue, allowing private sector input to guide the direction of cooperative activities between our governments.

Prior to the trade mission, my office published a market intelligence brief, “Japan’s Electricity Market and Opportunities for U.S. Renewable Energy and Smart Grid Exporters,” to highlight the complexity yet attractiveness of this burgeoning market.  While Japan is no stranger to renewable energy, it has revisited its policies and incentives due to several factors, including the March 2011 disaster that led to a shutdown of all but two nuclear plants in the country.  There is even talk of structural reform in the electricity sector.

Cora Dickson of the International Trade Administration stands by a sign indicating the high water mark of the floodwaters at the Tohoku Electric Utility's liquified natural gas plant following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Cora Dickson of the International Trade Administration stands by a sign indicating the high water mark of the floodwaters at the Tohoku Electric Utility’s liquified natural gas plant following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Another opportunity for U.S. renewable energy and smart grid companies to explore Japan’s market is coming up February 27-March 1 at the World Smart Energy Week in Tokyo, a Commerce certified trade show.  Please contact Takahiko Suzuki if you would like more information.

We will continue to shore up our alliance with the Government of Japan as well as Tohoku communities to promote clean energy.  The Tohoku Tour allowed us to talk with local people about how they envision renewable energy and smart grid technologies will help them manage their energy needs in the wake of the disaster.

On the same grounds of the solar plant in Tohoku, we also briefly visited the 400 MW liquefied natural gas plant operated by the same utility. It had been converted from a coal plant years earlier.  The plant was strong enough to withstand the tsunami, though the workers told of how they retreated to the third floor for several days until the floodwaters receded.  They had no power and they could not contact their families because all the phone towers were also destroyed.

As our bus rolled back towards the city where we would catch the bullet train to return to Tokyo, we saw newly reconstructed houses on the coastline as well as abandoned foundations.  These were solemn reminders that Japan is both vulnerable and resilient, and will take proactive steps towards a better future.  We hope U.S. companies can partner with them to reach their goals.

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The Business of Smart Grid

May 24, 2010

(This post contains external links.  Please review our external linking policy.)

Shannon Fraser serves in the Office of Energy and Environmental Industries, where she advances opportunities for U.S. energy companies through policy dialogues and export programs.  Shannon has specialized in a number of energy sectors, including smart grid and transmission/distribution.

What is a Smart Grid?  How does it impact U.S. Industry?

Signs of U.S. innovation, job creation, and economic revitalization are now underway with the numerous smart grid programs that are being implemented throughout the United States.  As of May 4, 2010, eighty-three of the smart grid projects funded through the stimulus bill are being integrated in local communities throughout the United States.  In total, the U.S. government has put forward $4.5 billion of smart grid stimulus funds as well as $7 billion of broadband deployment funds which will ensure that the required communications network for smart grid reaches all local and rural communities.

With all of the recent smart grid talk, what exactly is smart grid technology?  How will consumers and industry be impacted by this new grid system?  What market opportunities are available to the new, emerging smart grid companies, and how will a smart grid system foster job growth and a new, innovative clean energy economy in the United States?

Smart grid, quite simply, is a system which integrates the traditional transmission and distribution (T&D) network with an over-lay of information communications technologies (ICT).  The smart grid allows your power lines to communicate with your air conditioner, electric vehicle, wash machine, and cell phone, thereby allowing for you to proactively manage your energy use and electricity bill.  From a business perspective, electricity-intensive industries will be better able to track and manage their overall energy usage, thereby encouraging energy efficient practices and solutions throughout the facility.

The United States has taken an all-encompassing approach to the smart grid, highlighting a two-way flow of electricity and information to/from power plants, customers, equipment, appliances, and vehicles.  The definition of smart grid in other countries depends on the current T&D infrastructure in the country, as well as government and industry priorities and policies.   It is worth noting that a country will need basic T&D infrastructure before embarking on smart grid integration – if a country does not have power poles and transmission lines, then they are far away from developing a smart grid network.

The Department of Energy estimates that the benefits of a modernized grid system in the United States will span from $46 to $117 billion by 2023.  With a more secure and reliable grid network, U.S. businesses are estimated to save $100 billion per year, funds which can be redirected to the installation of new equipment in a facility and the hiring of new workers in a factory.  With recent federal smart grid funding programs, we have already witnessed U.S. companies that are taking on new workers.  Itron, smart grid company based in Waseca, Minnesota recently added 40 new workers to its facility, in addition to 120 new employees at its operations in South Carolina.

Countries worldwide are also implementing smart grid stimulus programs at local communities.  Australia, Brazil, China, the European Union, India, Japan, and South Korea are among the growing number of countries which are advancing the development and deployment of smart grid systems through public-private programs.  In many instances, U.S. companies are partnering with in-country utility companies and partnering companies to integrate U.S. smart grid components into the grid network.  Moreover, the emergence of electric vehicles, smart appliances, and smart products will foster greater international trade opportunities in the smart grid sector.

The International Trade Administration will highlight the business benefits of smart grid at the June 9, 2010 conference on “The Business of Smart Grid: Benefits for Minnesota’s Companies and Workforce.”  Coordinated in partnership with the Minnesota Trade Office and the University of Minnesota, this one-day program will highlight the emerging business and job creation opportunities generated by recent smart grid initiatives that impact numerous sectors of U.S. business and industry.

About the International Trade Administration-Manufacturing and Services

The International Trade Administration (ITA) strengthens the competitiveness of U.S. industry, promotes trade and investment, and ensures fair trade through the rigorous enforcement of our trade laws and agreements.  ITA works to improve the global business environment and helps U.S. organization compete at home and abroad.  ITA supports President Obama’s recovery agenda and the National Export Initiative to sustain economic growth and support American jobs.

The Manufacturing and Services (MAS) unit of the International Trade Administration (ITA) is dedicated to enhancing the global competitiveness of U.S. industry, expanding its market access, and increasing its exports. MAS industry experts and economists perform strategic research and analysis in order to shape and implement trade policy, create conditions that encourage innovation, lower the cost of doing business, and promote U.S. economic growth.

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