Sunday, December 9, 2012

JX Energy Announces Condominium Electricity Supply System with Natural Gas Fuel Cells

The Nikkei Shimbun today (Dec 9, 2012) has a lead story that suggests competitive electricity supply is about to get more interesting in Japan.

JX Energy (the largest oil importer/distributor in Japan -- a combination of Nippon Oil and Japan Energy), has announced a new product line to provide electric power to newly constructed condominiums, reducing the building's need to purchase from the grid by 80-90 percent.  The product is being tested on several JX company housing facilities near Tokyo and will be rolled out to the market by 2014.

The product includes a combination of

(1) a new, more efficient and less expensive natural gas-powered fuel cell generator.  (These have been part of the mix in Japan for some years now, with outrageously expensive natural gas-fired fuel cells for residential use, snapped up quickly to the extent of massive per-unit subsidies);

(2) rooftop solar PV;

(3) battery storage; and

(4) for the remaining 10-20% of electricity needs, a contract with JX Energy's competitive energy supplier subsidiary, which owns an 847MW gas-fired plant in Kawasaki, and will deliver over the existing grid.  (This electricity predicted to be available at 5-10% less than the TEPCO rates).

The article notes that the overall energy cost for the building/residents will be less than buying from TEPCO.  Of course, if natural gas prices can be brought down in Japan in coming years, then the difference could be substantial.

Apparently several other large companies (NTT Group, Daikyo) are also starting to offer discount electricity supply for multi-family housing in Japan, at some savings to the existing utilities.

Finally, the article notes that JX Group has completed development of new, more efficient and less expensive natural gas-powered fuel cell for residential use.  The initial price is expected to be more than 2 million yen, but they are targeting further development to bring the price down to the range of 500,000 yen ($6500) by the year 2015.

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