TEPCO reaffirms renewables commitment, vows to expand globally

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“Renewables are an essential component of our future,” TEPCO president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa said in an online statement. “We believe we can scale up our renewables business to create a new source of revenue.”

Kobayakawa said TEPCO — which is now grappling with the looming unbundling of its transmission and distribution businesses, as part of the broader, ongoing deregulation of Japan’s energy market — is targeting a JPY 450 billion profit over the next 10 years.

The future of the company has been in question since its nuclear fleet was shut down and it was effectively nationalized in the wake of the March 2011 meltdown at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It now aims to expand its revenue by JPY 500 billion ($4.7 billion) per year so it can continue to invest in the restoration of Fukushima prefecture.

A number of towns near the shuttered power plant have been rendered uninhabitable since the nuclear accident, mainly due to high radiation levels.

“Nuclear power is not everything,” said Kobayakawa, as he vowed to streamline TEPCO’s businesses, slash costs and pursue new tie-ups with unspecified partners. “Thermal power, the procurement of renewable energy, and hydropower all play a part.”

Although the company characterized its new plans under Kobayakawa as a “dramatically new path,” it has already started looking for opportunities in foreign markets, with a particular emphasis on storage technologies.

Last April, for example, it invested £500,000 ($702,275) in U.K. residential battery developer, Moixa Energy. TEPCO also recently agreed to help the tiny Himalayan country of Bhutan create a new electricity development plan, in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

And while all of Japan’s regional utilities have been criticized over the years for their perceived resistance to renewables uptake, Tepco has continued to invest in a number of pilot projects with a range of private partners. In December, for example, it signed a deal with Sunverge Energy and Mitsui & Co. to install multiple energy storage units throughout eastern Japan, as part of a virtual power plant (VPP) project.

TEPCO began investing in VPP demonstration projects several years ago. In early 2015, for example, group subsidiary Takaoka Toko teamed up with French battery supplier Saft and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to launch a five-year pilot to pair PV modules and wind turbines with lithium-ion storage batteries on the remote island of Niijima, south of Tokyo.

Japan’s total installed solar capacity now stands at slightly below 50 GW, up from about 42 GW at the end of 2016, according to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).