Toshiba – a very good year in terms of partnerships and projects

Katsutoshi Toda

Exclusive interview with Katsutoshi Toda, Chief Technology Executive, Toshiba Corporation. Once again Toshiba is a joint platinum sponsor with Landis+Gyr at European Utility Week 2013.

What are you most excited about currently in terms of Toshiba’s products and solutions?
We have a number of projects in the pipeline but there are two main events the smart grid industry should look forward to from Toshiba this year: the first is our Smart Meter Communication System Project for Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO), and the second is the launch of our Micro EMS solution.

In May, Toshiba’s Smart Meter Communication System proposal was chosen by TEPCO, Japan’s largest energy provider, in a public tender. TEPCO is planning to introduce smart meters to 27 million households over the next decade; this makes Toshiba the prime contractor and main system integrator of the largest smart meter communication system ever to have been built. Along with high end data concentrators, Toshiba will supply TEPCO with its head-end system, a management system for smart meter data communication. The scale and impact of this project is thrilling, but what’s even more exciting is that we get to work on this project with our colleagues from Landis+Gyr, as Toshiba is planning to incorporate Landis+Gyr’s smart metering expertise and MDMS technology to the system.

This project, upon completion, would not only take our partnership with Landis+Gyr to a new level, it would also take us closer to our goal of realizing the world’s largest smart grid system.

Turning to the launch of the Micro Energy Management System, as the integration of renewable energies such as solar power and wind power accelerates, the challenges for power grid operation such as reversed power flow or voltage fluctuations are becoming more and more prominent. Moreover, the demand for renewable energy is expected to continue to increase – for instance, Germany is planning to increase its share of renewable energy to 80% by 2050. This is good, but in order to proceed with renewable integration smoothly, it is important to deal with the challenges of power grid operation first.

This is the reason why we are continuously thinking of innovative ways to improve all aspects of energy grids; now, as a result of untiring efforts, we are nearing the launch of our micro EMS, a new end-to end solution built to further enhance our already existing energy management systems, battery energy storage system and advanced metering infrastructure.

What is on the calendar for Toshiba in 2013?
2013 is a very good year for Toshiba in terms of partnerships and projects.  

This year, with the goal of promoting our smart grid solution business better, Toshiba and Landis+Gyr have jointly established new centers of competence in Europe and North America. This will enable us to work even more closely with customers and understand local needs. By physically working in the same place, Toshiba and Landis+Gyr can bring their capability closer together and accelerate the development of their joint system.

I’ve mentioned the launch of the Micro Energy Management System. As part of this system we are also launching our Micro EMS server, a device capable of controlling and monitoring interconnected grid equipment. Aside from this function, the server can also perform integrated management of several other controllers and has an advanced calculation function to realize efficient use of energy.

What opportunities do you see in Europe?
With the EU’s 20-20-20 policy and the decision by some countries to move away from nuclear energy, the massive shift to renewable energy is expected to continue. Moreover, the need for energy efficiency has never been as high. With these trends happening in the smart grid market, the demand for efficient energy management will definitely be greater in the coming years.

Toshiba is already proposing solutions to improve issues such as instability in the distribution network caused by the high prevalence of PV for residential use. In terms of both efficient use of energy and low cost operation, Toshiba and Landis+Gyr will propose intelligent management and operation of street lighting as an innovative solution which brings our technologies together.

What do you think makes Toshiba competitive in this market?  
Toshiba has the experience, the technology and the expertise necessary to drive this kind of market. With its 130 years of rich history and extensive experience working closely with utilities, it has been able to provide numerous products and solutions catering to customers’ varying and constantly changing needs.

Smart grid technology is a new and promising market that needs the presence of innovations and risks.  In Toshiba, innovations and risks are things we are fond of doing, these are things we know we are good at. In fact, this innovative spirit of ours has led us to contribute a lot of ‘world first’ products and technological advancements over the course of history.

Finally, we have the technology capable of providing end-to-end total smart grid solutions, in collaboration with Landis+Gyr.

What do you think are the biggest challenges to the European/global energy market?
To maximize the benefits of introducing smart grid solutions, we believe it will be necessary to review and improve market mechanisms and regulatory structures in the mid to long term. For example, network operators are strongly regulated for power transactions involving battery energy storage systems, but if these systems can play an important role in improving energy efficiency for society as a whole, then it will be important to review and modify such regulations.

What surprises you about this industry?
One is the pace with which smart grid industries and technologies are moving. In a short period of time, it has rapidly evolved.

Another is the strong interest and support coming from different industry sectors. The way they express their cooperation and desire for a more efficient energy system is just overwhelming.

Everyone should be well aware that smart grids will not only contribute to a smarter energy system, but they will also serve as an essential foundations for realizing other goals like smarter transportation, medical and security systems. All these will come together and help us in our far more ambitious goal – a smarter community.

Anything you would like to add?  
At this year’s European Utility Week, Toshiba and Landis+Gyr will be having a joint booth featuring our latest integrated solutions and experiences. Such products and solutions are engineered carefully so as to match what our customers want and what the society needs. Please don’t miss out on visiting our booth at 1.A11.