Four areas in Japan are involved in a smart community trial which is looking at the optimization of energy demand and supply with the aim of conservation and the reduction of costs to society.

As reported in the Gas Review issue 373, hydrogen is being used in the project to store surplus electric power. Set in the Higashida area, as a test field, the attempt is being made to obtain a supply of electric power (20,000kW) from the natural gas cogeneration power station of the Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Tobata Works, located adjacent.

Along with this a 100kW mega solar facility and a small wind power generator were installed – enabling the area to be supplied with power in the form of new energy, which is the equivalent to 10% of total electricity for the area.

The test field involves 230 regular homes, including apartments, along with corporate offices, hospitals, and commercial facility complexes. The amount of electricity consumed by these users and the amount of electricity supplied are monitored in an integrated fashion by a regional energy monitoring system, called the Cluster Energy Management System (CEMS). Along with monitoring the demand and supply of electricity which changes at times from one moment to the next, CEMS also forecasts demand.

Based on these forecasts it also controls the amount of electricity power generated. At the same time it endeavors to get the users to conserve electricity and to cut down during peak periods of use.

A power fee system called a dynamic pricing system was introduced to be applied for daytime use during the summer. What this means is that when the amount used increases – the power fee also goes up. The fees range from ¥15-¥150.

If the amount of power used is kept down, the power fee becomes cheaper. This was a social test to verify how much the power consumers would conserve on power by altering the fees.

Hydrogen is also being tested as a back-up power supply. In this region, the verification test of ‘Hydrogen Town’ has been conducted, which operates hydrogen stations and fuel cell cogeneration by hydrogen as a byproduct of steel plants supplied by pipeline. This is a test to see how much hydrogen can contribute within a smart society.