The internet has become an indispensable part of society. Many people use cell phones, engage in e-commerce and net banking, and rely on car navigation systems. IC tags and barcodes are vital for supply chain management systems. These examples show that real-world society and information network society have consolidated and formed new social infrastructures. Similarly, using ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to control electrical power flows could result in dramatic conservation of energy, and contribute to prevention of global warming. Professor Takashi Matsuyama of the Kyoto University Graduate School of Informatics believes it could. “Informationization of energy (i-Energy)” is a keyword for the 21st century.
In Japan, energy conservation in houses and offices is more effective than in national-wide electric power networks
Thus far, conservation of energy has been focused mainly on indirect means including development of energy-saving electric appliances, electronic newspapers, network teleconferencing and telecommuting. Control of electrical power itself had not been considered. Recently, power supply companies in the United States have begun to manage the power distribution system in regional units, using ICT. These “Smart Grids” are a part of the Obama administration’s Green New Deal policy. However, this method seems to be unsuitable for Japan.
“The power distribution network in the United States is old, and hence significant energy-saving benefits can be attained through efficient management of the power network. In contrast, the efficiency improvement of Japan’s power distribution network is already well advanced, and no great benefit can be expected. Moreover, energy conservation by industries in Japan is already advanced. To support global warming prevention, progress in household energy conservation is needed.
A system to distinguish between home appliances and supply power as needed
A total power control system encompassing electrical appliances and installation of solar power generators in all homes is being examined. With the emergence of personal computers, cell phones and the internet, multimedia became both personalized and interconnected. The information network society was born. Similarly, the advent of solar power generation, fuel cells, and high performance storage batteries is enabling individual households to use equipment for generating and storing electric power. This in turn is creating the infrastructure for achieving total control over power consumption and generation in household units.
“Current laws regulate in detail the distribution and usage of power lines from power companies to households and businesses. However, power usage in the home and office is relatively unregulated. That is where we have begun. By enabling households and offices to trade electricity with each other, ultimately we will achieve total power management and control in regional units. This should contribute to prevention of global warming.”
A sensor (smart tap) installed in each home electric appliance will measure and analyze the state of power usage by each appliance in real time. The information will be sent to a power management and control system. Air conditioners, vacuum cleaners and other appliances create different electric current wave forms and other data when in use. Using the data, the power management and control system will be able to identify which home appliances are being used, with accuracy of almost 100%. Furthermore, the usage characteristics of home appliances vary subtly from person to person. Therefore, it is possible to distinguish who and how many people are in the house at any one time. A movement pattern for the household can then be discerned. Based on this data, the management/control system predetermines the maximum possible power usage for each household. Power distribution to individual home appliances can then be reduced or turned off as necessary. The outcome will be dramatic energy conservation and achievement of an “eco-lifestyle” that contributes to global warming prevention.
Promoting industry in the Kansai region through houses featuring total power control
Of course, the system will also be able to manage the sale of power generated by solar power generators, fuel cells, etc., to power companies, and direct high performance storage batteries to store power at night when it is cheaper. Storage batteries will not be placed solely in the home; storage batteries of electric vehicles will also be used. As well as supporting global warming prevention, it is believed such a future total power management/control system and on-demand power network (EoD) will contribute to promotion of Kansai region industry.
“The major manufacturers of solar power systems, high performance storage batteries and housing are Kansai-based enterprises. Development and export of housing and home appliances with such functions should contribute to growth of the Kansai region.”
Demonstration testing of a model house in which all appliances have been fitted with smart taps for measuring, analyzing and displaying the state of power usage in real time will begin in February 2010. A great step is being taken to turn a dream into reality.
(Akira Miki December 15, 2009)