POWER UTILITY | Karen Mesina, Japan

Japan is keeping itself busy by making virtual power plants

It's currently working on a demo project to be launched this year.

Japan's feed in tariff was introduced in July 2012 to maximise the penetration of renewable energy. FiT law obliges retail utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable energy for a certain period at a fixed rate. The purchase cost under the FIT system is paid by all consumers at the same time as the electricity charge as a surcharge. At the end of FY2015, the amount of renewable energy was 39.66GW, about 3.5 times compared to the period before the FIT system was started.

However there are challenges in dispatching power supply as renewables kept coming in. "There has been a marked increase in proportion of solar and wind during light load period. During daytime, supply-demand balance is maintained by the pump-up of pumped-storage power generation. As solar increases further, it is necessary to curtail solar power. Net load sharply drops in the morning and rises sharply in the evening, making supply/demand balance difficult," Fumiaki Ishida, general manager, advanced grid strategy group community energy division, The Kansai Electric Power, said in a conference at The World Smart Energy Week 2017.

This has prompted the government to explore virtual power plants, he said. After the 2011 earthquake, the issue to stably and effectively utilise rapidly expanding renewable energy became urgent. The government eyes establishing control technology for virtual power plants (VPP) of 50MW and more by the demonstration project from 2016 to 2020, while the subsidy amount is pegged at JPY4b in FY2017, he added.

"7 VPP construction subsidised projects have been adopted in FY2016 with capacity of energy resource at 19.1MW. VPP resources are operated through Internet of Things, as per the monitoring and controlling systems established by participants. There is an expansion of opportunites to use VPP service due to progress in electric power system reform and further increase in renewable energy. We will gradually improve and construct VPP system and promote commercialisation," Ishida further explained.

Since renewable energy will be widely spread in the future, it is assumed that the stable supply of electric power wil be more difficult. As an electric power system reforms have been progressing, efficient operation utilising the demand side adjustment power is also expected with effforts under way.

"In Japan and Kansai Electric Power, we have been working on demonstration projects such as demand response and negative watts as measures to deal with various problems of the electric power system. We are also working on the VPP demonstration project from this fiscal year, and aiming to establish a system that integrates and controls various resources and establishing bulk control technology," he said.

The World Smart Energy Week is currently being held from March 1 to 3 at Tokyo, Japan.

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