YOKOHAMA, Japan: In this country, the use of alternative forms of energy is on the upswing. Slowly, the Japanese government is shifting away from conventional energy production, which includes coal, gas, oil, and nuclear—moving towards renewable energy.
Following its aggressive industrialization after World War 2, Japan has become the sixth biggest producer of electricity even though the population only accounted for 1.73 percent of the world’s population. In fact, latest figures show that each Japanese resident consumes an average of 5,513 kilowatt-hours per year.
Between 2010 and 2015, the price of electricity in Japan (even around the world) shot-up because of the high-price of oil as well as the disaster that beset Japan in March 2011 when the Fukushima nuclear power plant was damaged by a tsunami. After the tragedy, the Japanese government was forced to become more aggressive in the development and use of renewable sources of energy and be less reliant on the dwindling sources of fossil fuel.
To promote the development and use of renewable energy, the government gave considerable subsidies to corporations and household that use sustainable energy and mandated that by 2020, at least 20-percent of the country’s energy production should come from renewable sources.
Mitsubishi Electric has always been at the forefront of developing systems that compliment renewable energy sources. Recently, Mitsubishi Electric developed the Home Energy Management System (HEMS), an apparatus that helps homeowners monitor and manage their electricity consumption.
A house’s electrical components and appliances, including lights, air conditioners, heaters, television, cooking , and even electric vehicles (EV) are connected to HEMS for control and monitoring. Electrical sources such as the main grid and solar power generators are also connected to the system.
With all the electronic and electrical systems hooked up, the computerized system allows the homeowner the best possible way of utilizing energy
The system can be programmed to manage the use of regular and solar energy, so whatever electricity the house consumes would always be the least expensive. When an electric vehicle is charged at home, the system can either use power from the grid or solar panels, depending on which costs less at that time.
Appliances can also be controlled remotely by using a smartphone. One can turn on or off the heater or air conditioner while starting to cook rice even away from home. Up to 17 different appliances can be connected to the HEMS. During day time, when less electricity is used, the system can sell the excess energy generated by the solar panels to the grid.
During emergencies or power failures, the system manages power coming in to the house either through the solar panels (when there is sunlight) or through the EV batteries during night time.
At present, HEMS is used in 600 households all over Japan. The homes are called Smart Houses.
Although the cost of the system is still prohibitive (¥5 million) Mitsubishi Electric hopes to bring the cost down when the demand for the system goes up in the near future.