Panasonic in JV to sell aggregated electricity from residential solar in Japan

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Japanese consumer electronics company Panasonic and energy management firm EPCO have agreed to form a joint venture with the aim of selling aggregated power generated from residential solar installations. The partnership will begin from 31 January.

The JV will begin by rolling out aggregated residential power sales in the Kanto and Kansai regions of the country by summer of this year, pooling power from groups of houses.

The statement claimed the JV would combine the strengths of the two companies, Panasonic in building PV systems and panels and Epco in handling the logistics of the venture, with the Epco call centre able to handle more than 100,000 customer enquiries annually.

Epco is also involved with developing smart energy systems and home energy management systems (HEMS). The company has previously collaborated with battery storage rental company ONE Energy and the University of Cambridge. Work has included research on control technology and a leasing plan for storage batteries, energy efficiency for residences and other issues relating to smart homes and other HEMS.

Panasonic purchased a 14.9% stake in Epco in 2009. The two companies plan to initially invest around ¥300 million (US$2.9 million) into the JV, with Panasonic owning 51% and Epco 49%.

The two companies released a statement explaining that the move, effectively forming a new business for both, has been made ahead of the planned liberalisation of the Japanese electricity retail market which is expected to come into effect in 2016. Panasonic and Epco hope that the positioning of the new business will be well placed to benefit from the regulatory changes.

The liberalisation of the consumer electricity market is considered vital among experts in encouraging competitive practise and easing the burden on Japan’s grid infrastructure and has been discussed for many years. At present the Japanese electricity market is divided into regional monopolies held by utility companies across the 10 grid systems the country has in place.

Speaking to PV Tech’s sister publication Solar Business Focus in August last year, Professor Kazuhiro Ueta, head of an influential solar policy panel that makes recommendations to the Japanese government, was strongly in favour of unbundling the energy market and allowing consumers greater choice in sourcing power.

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