Toshiba to Start Solar Power Retail Business in Germany

2013/12/05 16:09
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute

Toshiba Corp announced Dec 4, 2013, that it will launch a retail electricity business based on solar power generation in Germany.

Toshiba will tie up with Gagfah, Germany's largest real estate company, and start the retail electricity business using solar power generation systems at apartment buildings (for rent) owned by Gagfah in Villingen-Schwenningen and Ostfildern cities in March 2014.

Specifically, Toshiba will raise money from pension funds, etc to install the company's solar power generation systems at apartment buildings owned by Gagfah. Electricity generated at the buildings will be sold to the German branch of Toshiba International Europe (TIL), which is a retailer, and TIL will sell the electricity to the residents of the apartments at a lower rate than that charged by electric utilities.

During hours when the solar power generation systems are not in operation such as nighttime hours, TIL will purchase electricity in the wholesale market and sell it to the residents at the same rate.

Toshiba came up with a scheme that benefits TIL, Gagfah, investors and residents without relying on a feed-in tariff (FIT) policy by installing solar power generation systems on the roofs of apartment buildings (near residential space) and selling generated electricity directly to residents, Toshiba said. The initial power generation capacity will be 3MW in total, and generated electricity will be sold to 750 households at first. Toshiba plans to increase the capacity to 100MW across Germany by 2016.

In Germany, an FIT scheme for solar power generation was introduced in 2000, lowering prices at which power companies purchase electricity every year. On the other hand, electricity rates are soaring as the amount of electricity produced with solar power generation systems is increasing.

In addition, due to liberalization of electricity trade, retailers can purchase electricity in the wholesale market. Because TIL sells electricity directly to apartment residents without using a power grid, Toshiba's scheme reduces load on local power grids and enables to provide environmentally-friendly electricity to the residents.

From now, Toshiba plans to establish a system that enables to effectively use power produced with solar power generation systems day and night by combining them with smartmeters, rechargeable batteries and control technologies for them. And it intends to consider applying the system to a service business that supports regional energy management on a real-time basis. The company plans to develop its smart grid-related business at the global level by using dispersed power sources that match local needs and conditions.

In Germany, prices at which power companies purchase renewable energy-based electricity are lowering, and many companies are developing new business schemes in preparation for the post FIT era. Toshiba's scheme, which generates electricity by using solar power generation systems installed at buildings and sells it to the residents of the buildings, is one of such new business schemes.

In other words, the company laid the foundations for next-generation renewable-energy business in the European market, where it took a lead in exploiting the FIT policy.