Mitsubishi’s $76M Smart Grid Play

Japanese conglomerates that have so far been dabbling in the global smart grid market seem to be looking to ramp up their investments. At least Mitsubishi — which makes everything from clean power equipment to cars to consumer electronics to chemicals — is. This morning Mitsubishi Electric announced that it plans to invest 7 billion yen ($75.61 million) into building and experimenting with smart grid pilot projects over the next few years.

Mitsubishi, which makes traditional power plants and nuclear technology, has been beefing up its investments in clean power recently, and plans to test smart grid technology as a way to connect and manage renewable power. Mitsubishi says it will install clean energy and smart grid technology — including smart meters, batteries, solar PV, an electric vehicle and charging station and a communications network — at three of its facilities in Japan. By March 2012, Mitsubishi says it hopes to use the projects to be able to closely analyze how clean energy can be integrated into the power grid.

But beyond experiments and as an aid for clean power, Mitsubishi also says it “aims to market smart grid related products and systems in the near future,” and plans to sell smart grid gear globally. With its history in electronics, batteries, cars and power generation, it could create just about any type of gear for the power grid, but says it will specifically make smart grid electric systems and equipment and smart grid communications networks, as part of two recently created groups: “The Power Grid Project in the Transmission & Distribution Systems Center,” and “The Next Generation Energy Communication Project in the Communication Networks Center.” Selling transmission and distribution equipment would put Mitsubishi in competition with power giants like Siemens (s SI) and ABB (s ABB).

Mitsubishi is just one of a group of Japanese electronics firms that has taken an interest in smart grid technology over the past year. A group, which includes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba, Kyocera, Shimizu and Tokyo Gas Co. have said they will spend $33.4 million on a smart grid project in Los Alamos and Albuquerque, N.M. Toshiba says it will install a 1-megawatt storage battery at the Los Alamos site, while Kyocera and Sharp will test smart home, energy management and load control technology.

The national Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun reported recently that Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry will try to get the International Electrotechnical Commission to adopt 26 Japanese standards to serve as global standards for the smart grid. The paper says, “The move is aimed at catching up with the United States, which has taken the lead in developing technological global standards, according to sources.”

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Image courtesy of Mitsubishi