Enabling the Japanese Energy Transition through Technological Innovation

December 13, 2017 / Blogs

There are many parallels to be drawn between the UK and Japan, whether it be their geographies, economies or level of technological advancement. However when it comes to energy they differ markedly, in particular where they are on their energy market liberalisation journey, with the UK deregulating in the ‘90s while Japan goes through this critical energy transition now. This has come about as a result of the wide-reaching economic impact of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. The main objectives of the Japanese deregulation are to introduce greater competition, greater flows of energy between regions and to deliver lower energy prices, which were the highest in the world following the collapse of the Fukushima plant.

UK market liberalisation was not without its teething pains, however it spurred on a significant and positive transformation of the UK energy sector. This has resulted in the country becoming a hive of innovation as new entrants are given the freedom to address the mega trends of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation and help established incumbents to achieve cost savings and deliver new value to system participants. By using the UK as an example and gaining insights from our lessons learned, Japan could fast forward its own energy transition.

Of all participants in the energy value chain, the energy transition is particularly challenging for grid operators. Previously they had been able to rely on fossil fuel power stations to provide grid stability as their turbines injected inertia into the network, contributing to system resiliency in the face of a disturbance, such as a fault. Conversely, renewable generation by its nature is unable to produce inertia, and therefore does not positively contribute in the same way to grid stability. As a result, as more renewables come into play, the energy system must be balanced faster making safe and cost-effective grid operation increasingly challenging. The question facing grid operators is how to continue managing their systems with the same level of security of supply that national economies have come to rely on as this proportion of renewables increases further and grid stability, or inertia, drops lower. Following the deregulation of the energy sector in the late ‘90s, we can see from the figure below that the growth of renewable generation in the UK has been exponential which has led to National Grid UK pro-actively looking for an innovative way of tackling grid instability concerns.

*Figure from the REA REView 2017

Earlier this year, Reactive Technologies and National Grid UK successfully completed Project SIM, an innovation project that used Reactive’s GridMetrix to continuously measure and monitor grid inertia across an entire energy network, which is a world first. Until now, there was no known way to take continuous, direct measurements of system inertia, so it has always been estimated. These estimates, which have unknown error margins, are used for trading renewable and fossil fuel energy, setting multi-year budgets for energy reserve services and long-term investments in grid infrastructure. Inertia estimations were fit for purpose while synchronous, fossil fuel generation pervaded, but as renewable, non-synchronous generation takes its place, grid operators increasingly need a more accurate understanding of inertia.

GridMetrix is a unique power grid measurement and data analytics visualization platform that is fundamentally changing the way grid operators around the world manage their systems by providing them with real-time visibility of critical system data, such as inertia, frequency and sub-synchronous oscillation. The enhanced intelligence provided by GridMetrix enables grid operators to more efficiently manage their networks, resulting in reduced energy reserve spend, decreased reinforcement costs, increased uptake and usage of renewable generation without compromising security of supply and lower energy costs for end customers.

By no longer relying on estimates and instead using cutting-edge technology to gain a clear, real-time view of system conditions, grid operators in Japan will have the data visibility and intelligence they need to navigate through the energy transition safely and cost-effectively.

Reactive Technologies is excited to be part of an energy trade mission visiting Japan in February 2018. This follows on from a successful trip completed in conjunction with the UK Department for International Trade in 2017. If you are a grid operator or a utility and would like to arrange a meeting with us to find out more about how our solution can tackle your challenges, please reach out.

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