Toyota, Panasonic Join $1 Billion Smart-Grid Trial

Toyota Motor Corp., Panasonic Corp., and Toshiba Corp. are among companies taking part in a 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) trial of "smart grids" in urban areas across Japan as part of energy conservation efforts.

In Yokohama smart meters will be installed at some households to monitor energy use and relay the information to the central grid, Hideaki Inagaki, the city’s global warming prevention manager, said by phone. The 56 billion yen project also includes fitting solar panels to homes to supply 27 megawatts and building recharging stations for electric cars.

Smart grids use digital technology to deal with fluctuations in currents from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. The government wants Japan to get 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and has estimated the shift will require a national grid upgrade costing as much as 6.7 trillion yen by 2030.

Three smaller trials, in Kyoto and Aichi prefectures and in Kitakyushu, will cost between 10 billion yen and 20 billion yen, said Kenta Iida, energy office director at the trade ministry. The ministry will spend about 4 billion yen on the trials this year and may expand the budget from next year, Iida said.

The trade ministry estimates the domestic market for grid infrastructure upgrades and renewable energy will grow to 3.6 trillion yen by 2020 and create 400,000 new jobs, according to a statement released today.

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