Main Contents begins from here.
This discussion focused on the kinds of energy solutions that the Panasonic Group provides, and the strength that has been achieved by combining the efforts of three Group companies.
Junji Nomura, Senior Managing Director, Panasonic Corporation
Hiroshi Hanafusa, Smart Energy System Division, SANYO Electric Co., Ltd.
Yasuhiro Fujii, General Manager, Energy Solutions Business Promotion Office, Executive Officer, Panasonic Electric Works Co., Ltd.
Mr. Shigenori Jimbo, Producer, Environmental Department, Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. October 7, 2010
Jimbo: I'd like to begin by having each of you tell us what kinds of energy solutions your company is providing, and your thoughts about the potential for future business opportunities.
Nomura: Well, the first solution targeted by Panasonic Corporation is the renewable energy business, which is being promoted by various countries around the world. And the second is a form of energy management business linked with Smart Meters that work with today's Smart Grids. In the near future, the energy business is going to shift from its present form, which is based solely on power utilities, into a local production/local use industry in which energy is supplied from a variety of sources, such as local companies and even homes themselves. Panasonic will use its inherent strength as a company that is closely aligned with its customers' lifestyles to advance a kind of energy management that links the steps of creating energy, storing energy and saving energy. These energy solutions will begin with entire homes and eventually extend to entire towns by including buildings, stores and public facilities.
For homes, we're developing comfortable solutions that lower energy consumption by using things like heat-insulating building materials, solar power generation and networkable, energy-saving appliances. We hope to continue expanding this new energy management based on everyday living spaces.
Hanafusa: The power from solar power generation is clean, but it also has a slightly whimsical nature. It can't be generated at night, and the amount that's generated drops even in the daytime when the sky is cloudy. We need storage batteries to achieve truly comfortable use. With this in mind, we developed a Smart Energy System that combines storage batteries and solar power generation right from the start. In order to bring actual form to this energy management system, we invested 5,000,000,000 (five billion) yen to build a new production base in Kasai, Hyogo Prefecture, that also serves as a showroom. In addition to covering the roof and exterior walls with solar power modules, we also provided it with the world's largest-scale lithium-ion storage battery system. The opening ceremony for the new facility will take place on October 22, 2010.
Lithium-ion batteries are also found in today's cell phones, but they require a complicated control technology to allow electricity to be safely extracted. Proprietary SANYO technologies that we've accumulated through some 45 years of developing storage batteries will make it possible for this large-scale system to safely extract the amount of electricity that's required at the precise time that it's needed. Our eventual goal is to use the strength of Japanese technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and help save the Earth.
Fujii: I'd like to talk about some new developments in our indoor DC (Direct Current) Power Distribution System. Our mission here is to make electrical power safe, reliable, comfortable and convenient to use. In Japan, when DC power passes through cables and enters the home, it is first converted to AC (alternating current), which allows the voltage to be changed. However, many home appliances actually use DC power. Because of this, the AC power is re-converted to DC. If the power could be distributed in its original DC form, it would eliminate the loss that occurs in the conversion process. To do this, we are now developing a DC Power Distribution System that eliminates the waste of DC/AC conversion and allows both DC and AC power to be efficiently used as necessary.
Jimbo: Would you tell us a bit about the "Smart Community" that is now being conceptualized?
Nomura: A community basically consists of one's neighbors, which is a social unit that has existed for centuries both in Japan and around the world. So a "smart community" refers to creating energy solutions on a local level. In addition, the energy management system is used to develop things like a community healthcare system and a safety system to make people's lives safer, more secure, more comfortable and more convenient.
Jimbo: Other companies are also doing similar things. How does Panasonic's approach differ?
Fujii: I think the Panasonic Group has a better understanding of how people actually live and work in their homes and buildings. Because of that, people may relate more easily to the Panasonic approach to safety, security, comfort and convenience.
Nomura: For example, different storage batteries are needed for homes, buildings and communities. The Panasonic Group understands this.
Jimbo: I know that the storage battery is one of SANYO Electric's strengths. What kind of expectations does the Panasonic Group have now that SANYO Electric has become a member of the Group?
Hanafusa: I think the three companies joining together has given us particular strength in the areas of speed and globalization. Electricity is created and stored, then it's distributed, and finally it's used by energy-saving appliances. The fact that this can all be done by one corporate group shows our ability to develop and deploy new products and services with incredible speed. Also, Panasonic Corporation has strong connections with China, Panasonic Electric Works has strong connections with Europe, and SANYO Electric has strong connections with the U.S. Each of us is able to conduct verification tests in its area of strength to expand our energy solutions network worldwide.
Jimbo: What kinds of new business opportunities do you envision for the future?
Nomura: The markets for community-level security and healthcare are just now developing. Also, once we develop DC power distribution, the market scale will literally double. New DC-compatible products will be needed for home appliances, infrastructure equipment, home building materials and information devices.
Hanafusa: There's a good chance that a new type of company will appear that combines the business models of today's power utilities and IT companies. After all, we're talking about an energy renaissance here. For example, my mother doesn't use a personal computer, and doesn't even know about Google. If we develop a service that makes it possible to show the home's energy usage on an Internet-connected TV screen, even people like my mother will be able to enjoy the convenience of the Internet society.
Jimbo: In closing, could you each make a remark or tell us how you see things looking forward?
Nomura: I hope we'll be able to provide new products and services for everyday living spaces just as quickly as possible.
Hanafusa: In the big picture, the things we've talked about today are basically tools. What's really important is the people who will use them. I want to provide these people with ecological, user-friendly solutions.
Fujii: We sometimes have a tendency to concentrate too much on Japan alone. The Panasonic Group has the ability to offer energy solutions to everyone all over the world.
Jimbo: Well, I hope you'll continue to consolidate your tremendous strength as a group, and that you'll also join forces with other companies when you need to, in order to provide us all with comfortable energy solutions.