Japan and Britain: perfect smart energy transition partners
By Chris Wright, Chief Technology Officer, Moixa
How Japan’s corporations are making the country a world leader in clean technology – with a little help from British innovation.
Japan is isolated from the Asian mainland by more than just the Sea of Japan. It is what we call an ‘energy island’ – it is reliant on homegrown energy, rather than importing from abroad.
In recent years, this energy isolation, coupled with earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, has resulted in widespread power outages across the country. Homeowners are reacting by turning to solar and storage systems to reduce their dependence on the grid.
This perfect storm has resulted in Japan developing the world’s fourth-largest solar market, with 11GW of home systems, and a leading home energy storage market, with more than 125,000 batteries installed by 2016. It is also one of the world’s top three countries for electric vehicles, with more than 200,000 on its roads.
What’s more, Japan’s feed-in-tariff (FIT), introduced in 2009, only pays homeowners for 10 years. This means many people are coming to the end of their contracts and installing batteries to maximise self-consumption of their own solar power.
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Japan’s economy, which is typically dominated by huge corporations, has been adept at rolling out consumer technology on a massive scale. But these large companies aren’t always nimble enough to get on the front foot with the most cutting-edge technologies – a factor that’s needed for it to succeed in the smart-energy transition. Fortunately, that’s where British innovation can help. Britain’s culture of entrepreneurship means it has fostered SMEs that are developing the world’s most innovative software technology.
It’s axiomatic that opposites attract. Translate that to business, and it means each party can provide something that the other is lacking, to deliver a greater positive impact. By combining Japan’s ability to roll out clean technologies en masse with Britain’s state-of the-art tech ingenuity, we can begin to see the smart-energy transition being delivered [see box out].
The world’s largest cluster of live batteries
UK smart-battery company Moixa has rolled out its GridShare AI platform to manage batteries for 4,000 Japanese homes – believed to be the world’s largest live cluster of batteries, with a combined capacity of more than 40MWh.
The project is the result of a partnership between Moixa, ITOCHU Corporation, one of Japan’s largest trading houses, and TRENDE Inc., a new venture of TEPCO Ventures Inc., a subsidiary of the country’s biggest utility, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO).
At an event at the British embassy in Tokyo in October the partners also launched a new smart tariff enabled by Moixa’s GridShare that will reward home battery owners with lower prices for using electricity outside peak times.
AI-enabled GridShare is now included in ITOCHU’s Smart Star home energy storage systems to deliver increased resilience, reduced costs and more environmental benefit for users.
The software can also manage large fleets of batteries, aggregating owners’ spare capacity to act as a virtual power plant, importing and exporting energy to deliver services to the electricity grid. ITOCHU is selling 1000 of its 10kWh Smart Star L systems a month, so in a year Moixa could be aggregating more than 100MWh of flexible capacity.
Of the venture, UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “This AI platform by Moixa is a great example of our modern industrial strategy going global. With intelligent management of batteries designed with UK government support, Moixa is exporting its GridShare technology and knowhow so consumers in Japan can save money by using energy outside peak times, or in the future make money when using electric vehicles.”
The benefits won’t only be felt in Japan. Moixa is currently using GridShare across the UK in partnership with major utilities, network operators and public bodies, such as the European Regional Development Fund, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Energy and Climate Change and Innovate UK
Financing rises in digital platforms and renewables projects
Cold Bore is leading a shift in the completions (fracking) industry towards safer, more autonomous operations by providing oil & gas companies with SmartPAD, a centralised fully integrated software and hardware platform designed to collect, analyse, and report data. Better utilisation of this data unlocks operators’ ability to make improvements across all KPIs.
Results from a recent SmartPAD implementation with Hibernia Resources, saw the Permian-based producer able to reduce the duration of their completions program by 15 days (27%), with commensurate reductions in cost and emissions.
Along with this investment from bp ventures, bp will be deploying Cold Bore’s SmartPAD in bpx energy’s US onshore operations. The technology will support bpx’s efforts to continuously improve its operations.
“The oil & gas industry has realised that technological innovation is key to meeting growing calls for reduced emissions and improved returns. Cold Bore is proud to be playing a leadership role in the future of oil & gas operations.” said Brett Chell, Co-founder & President at Cold Bore Technology.
“As we scale to meet incredible demand, we’re excited to have a strong strategic partner in bp, a forward-thinking international energy company, and to play a part in helping bp reach its carbon and operational targets. The future of the oil & gas industry is autonomous operations."
Existing investors include the Rice Investment Group (RIG), a $200M multi-strategy, energy sector investment fund.
Another company in the spotlight last week was Soltage, a leading independent renewable power producer, which has raised a $130M debt facility led by Silicon Valley Bank. The investment will finance a 110MW national portfolio of projects across North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine, Illinois, Virginia and Maryland.
The construction of this portfolio will be staged over the next three quarters, with construction currently underway on ten projects across four states. Customers purchasing electricity from the projects financed through this debt vehicle include Investor Owned Utilities buying power under Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) contracts, community solar subscribers and corporations purchasing power from the portfolio to meet clean energy goals and lower energy costs.
Silicon Valley Bank is the Sole Coordinating Lead Arranger of the debt facility with three other banks included as lenders. This facility includes an optional $100M expansion feature to finance additional projects beyond the current set of identified projects. This announcement marks the latest development for the Soltage Iris capital vehicle, following Soltage and Harrison Street's $250M commitment in March to deliver 450MW of new solar, solar+storage and standalone storage development across the US.
"Soltage continues to provide stable investment opportunities for capital providers who are looking for bankable approaches to sustainable infrastructure investment," said Sripradha Ilango, Soltage CFO. "We are pleased to continue to bring to market high quality project portfolios that open avenues for corporations, utilities and families to adopt solar power and achieve decarbonisation priorities."
"We are at a critical point where funding domestic infrastructure to bring more clean energy online in the United States is of the utmost importance," said Bret Turner, Market Manager at Silicon Valley Bank. "Our team is proud to work with Soltage to support building these essential zero carbon energy projects in key locations across the country."
This announcement is part of a continued movement of mainstream investors looking to solar and other renewable infrastructure assets for long-term investment opportunities. Soltage has deployed over $1B into clean energy assets across the US since its founding in 2005.
SVOLT Energy Technology Co., a leading EV battery manufacturer, held a B Round Financing Transaction Ceremony in Changzhou, Jiangsu on July 28. Following the completion of A Round Financing of RMB 3.5 billion ($538 million) at the end of February, the company rapidly closed this third round of market-based equity funding, raising a total amount of RMB 10.28 billion ($1.58 billion).
Last month also saw Longroad Energy, a US-based renewable energy developer, owner and operator, complete term financing for Sun Streams 2, its 200 MWdc solar project in Maricopa County, Arizona. Longroad owns 100 percent of the project after acquiring it in early 2021 from First Solar, the original developer.