Japan’s smart meter market opens doors to foreigners

Smart meter specialists worldwide are eyeing a potentially lucrative opportunity in Japan following the recent adoption of international standards by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), according to a report from Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

TEPCO had previously planned to introduce smart meters based on its own specifications, but critics said this would favor group companies and drive up prices.

Smart meter specialists worldwide are eyeing a potentially lucrative opportunity in Japan following the recent adoption of international standards by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), according to a report from Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.

TEPCO had previously planned to introduce smart meters based on its own specifications, but critics said this would favor group companies and drive up prices.

In July, the utility backed down and announced it would adopt international standards for smart meter specifications, following consultation with a number of companies.

The decision will make it much easier for foreign organisations to enter the Japanese smart meter market.

Japan’s government wants about 80% of nationwide electricity consumption to be covered with smart meters by 2017.

TEPCO serves about 27 million households in Japan and intends to replace old-style electricity meters with smart meters in all these premises between 2014 and 2023.

With other utility companies announcing similar schemes, analysts reckon a total of 70 million meters will eventually be replaced with smart meters in Japan.

Set to invite smart meter bids next fiscal year, TEPCO had originally estimated that the bidding price per smart meter would be about 30,000 yen ($380). It later revised this figure to 12,000 yen and now reckons it could be as little as 10,000 yen following the adoption of international standards.

That would limit the cost of replacing meters at TEPCO homes to about 200 billion yen.

According to Yomiuri Shimbun, Itron (Spokane, USA) and Enel (Rome, Italy) are just two of the international firms likely to submit bids to TEPCO next year.

So far, only four companies have ever sold electric power meters to TEPCO, and all are Japanese—Osaki Electric Company, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (Tokyo), Toshiba Toko Meter Systems Company (Tokyo) and GE Fuji Meter Company (Tokyo).