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New energies 16/09/2019

KiWi Power – Winner of Japan Energy Challenge 2019

KiWi Power, UK-based provider of Distributed Energy Resource Management solutions, was one of four ENGIE-backed winners in last month's Japan Energy Challenge (JEC). The prize is a sponsored trip to Japan to meet potential future partners. Nima Tabatabai, Product Manager, answered our questions.

Q: - Hello Nima. First of all, what would you like to say about the energy market in Japan?

Japan is one of the 'Big Five' energy markets. It's highly industrialised, highly populated... and has an island grid, which adds an extra challenge: energy balance cannot be achieved by the interconnection of neighbouring grids, as between the UK and France for example, so the balance must be internal. Indeed, there is a unique situation with two grids, geographically separate, one at 50Hz and one at 60 Hz.

In this post-Fukushima period, the Japanese are downscaling their nuclear energy resources, and looking towards a rapid transition to renewable energy, using gas-fired power stations meanwhile. There are multiple market needs, and interesting flexibility requirements.

For the moment, the energy market is not deregulated, particularly for flexibility, and traditionally difficult to enter. Regional utilities are still common for example. But this situation is already starting to change, and the markets are likely to open towards the end of 2020. Japanese companies are already preparing for this.

Q: - A few words about the Japan Energy Challenge?

Simply participating brought us multiple advantages, including one-on-one time with senior decision-makers. The participating companies had paid serious money to meet innovative startups, and so the level of motivation was high! And the winners were selected by a Japanese vote: that definitely carried a lot of weight.

Lots of opportunities for leverage also came out of the Challenge. As we continue to engage with JEC and the sponsors, we are already in a position to move forward with some important Japanese stakeholders. The process in view will be a long one, but a solid basis is established.

Q: - And the next steps ?

The prize is a visit to Japan to meet potential partners in person. That is definitely the next step! Human contact is always important, but I worked five years for Mitsubishi, and learnt that it is especially so in Japan.

Q: - What will be your particular focus as you address the Japanese market?

Everything to do with the flexibility market. In particular, the management of Distributed Energy Resources and of Battery Energy Storage.

Q: - And what are your advantages in that market?

First of all, KiWi Power already has ten years aggregation experience, so we are well-placed with regard to the competition. Secondly, the Japanese are keen on hardware and technology, and I think the fact that our hardware is in-house and not outsourced is a convincing element for them. And finally, companies in Japan look for partners that are well-backed: and there we have a head start, thanks to ENGIE!

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