Dr. Kaoru Yamaguchi on Japanese Smart Grids and Communities

On April 11, I met with Dr. Kaoru Yamaguchi at the Institute of Energy and Economics Japan (IEEJ). Dr. Yamaguchi is a Senior Research Fellow and Assistant Director of IEEJ’s New and Renewable Energy & International Cooperation Unit. He also moderated a panel on the Integration of Smart Grids and Renewables at the International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN) Public Workshop in Yokohama last month. Dr. Yamaguchi shared some of his thoughts on Japanese Smart Grids and Smart Communities with me.

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Some Background on Japan

Hello friends, and greetings from Yokohama! I’ve been in Japan for a little over three weeks now, but in many ways it still feels like I’m barely getting started. I just got my Japan Rail Pass (which gives me unlimited travel on Japan’s major railway network), so I’m excited to travel around the country and generally “embark” on this chapter of my Watson journey.

In addition to doing some sightseeing, I’ve done some reading and conducted a few interviews during the last few weeks. I’ll start publishing some interview writeups shortly, but first, here’s some relevant background about Japan’s Smart Grids and power sector.

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A Chat with Jennifer McIntosh of the International Solar Energy Society

On September 2, I met with Jennifer McIntosh, Head of Secretariat at the International Solar Energy Society (ISES). ISES is a global membership organization of researchers that, as stated on its website, “works to achieve 100% renewable energy for all, used efficiently and wisely, by providing the global renewable energy community with a collective, scientifically credible voice and up-to-date information gathered and synthesized by its talented members.” I met Ms. McIntosh at the organization’s headquarters in Freiburg.

Ms. McIntosh told me that ISES is just starting to bring Smart Grids into its fold, since Smart Grids become important as renewables scale up. In order to advance the global transition to a 100% renewable energy world, Smart Grids are an important area of focus. In particular, smaller grids can play an important role in not only increasing energy access but creating efficient and reliable networks of decentralized renewable energy. While many emphasize the necessity of building large scale “renewable energy highways” of power lines running from north to south, local approaches that give power to the people are already feasible and working. Community-owned renewable energy brings in stakeholders beyond the big energy companies and minimizes the losses that come with transporting power long distances. For these approaches, Smart Homes, storage, power-to-gas techniques, and other large infrastructural changes become necessary. Ms. McIntosh pointed out that we’ve gone through such large infrastructural changes before — specifically, when transitioning from buggies to combustion engine-driven transport — so we can do it again.

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Sustainable Transport Policy in Munich: A Conversation with Chelsea Tschoerner

On September 1, I Skype-interviewed Chelsea Tschoerner. Ms. Tschoerner is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Freiburg, studying sustainable mobility in Munich. She told me quite a bit about Munich and its interesting constellation of actors. We then discussed how lessons from her work apply more generally to sustainability policy research.

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Local Governance and the Purpose of Smart Grids: An Interview with Wolfgang Teubner

On October 1, I interviewed Wolfgang Teubner of ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. Mr. Teubner is ICLEI’s Regional Director for Europe and Managing Director of the ICLEI European Secretariat. I originally met him at the S3C Final Conference and was delighted to interview him one-on-one (via Skype) a week later.
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Klaus Hoppe on Cities, Climate Protection, and the Role of ICT

On August 21, I met with Klaus Hoppe, a free-lance consultant from Freiburg who helps integrate energy solutions into municipal plans. He takes a system-wide approach to this topic, working with companies, researchers, and municipal governments on tasks such as proposal writing and running citizens’ workshops. Before starting Klaus Hoppe Consulting, Mr. Hoppe worked for 21 years in the administrations of Freiburg and Bad Dürkheim on energy and waste management. During our meeting, we discussed the role of Smart Grids and ICT in municipal climate protection actions.

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Goodbye Chronology!

I had initially planned to publish my interviews chronologically, so that my blog would reflect how my questions and thinking have evolved over time. However, this dedication to chronology has meant low post frequency. It’s also meant that I’m less likely to write up/reflect on new interviews relevant to my present location, since I’m instead focused on clearing my backlog. So goodbye chronology, and hello more frequent posting! (How many times do I have to say that before it’s finally true? :D)