In 1882, Thomas Edison built the world's first large-scale, coal-fired power plant in New York. Back then, regular households were not equipped with electrical sockets, and power lines had yet to be strung throughout the city. Edison was eager to develop infrastructure to promote the use of his newly invented electric lightbulb, and even though his decision to build the Pearl Street Station turned out to be a good one, it was considered a very hasty, risky move at the time.
Perhaps it was in the tradition of Edison's pioneering spirit that the US government began reforming its power sector in the early 1990s. The changes included widescale deregulations, systems to decouple power generation and transmission, and the commercialization of renewable energies, moves that were unprecendented in other countries. With each passing year, rules govering the US power sector were relaxed even more, and today competition between private enterprises is fierce.
Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) was one of the first companies to get involved. That was almost 30 years ago, when it decided to upgrade its traditional business model of selling small turbines and other equipment to managing power generation businesses. In 1999, MC set up its wholly-owned subsidiary, Diamond Generating Corporation (DGC), and began expanding its presence in the US power market. In 2012, it launched operations at the Mariposa Power Plant in California, a project for which it handled everything from site selection to facilities design and construction. The gas-fired facility in Mariposa is a so-called "peaker plant," which augments power generated by less reliable and weather dependant renewable sources, and helps to satisfy power demand during periods of peak consumption.
"The US is a fair market," says Shuhei Kurosawa, leader of the North America Team of MC's Americas Power Business Unit, which oversees operations at DGC. "There are a lot of opportunities to be had here, and we are always capable of taking on new challenges." DGC currently owns eight natural-gas-fired plants and two wind farms in the US. It is already involved in northeastern wholesale electricity markets*1 and is considering DER*2 and other new and unconventional ventures. MC is keen to apply the wealth of knowhow and experience that it has gained in the US to sustainably grow power generation businesses around the world.
Power generation technologies are constantly evolving, and so too are needs in societies the world over. Flexible concepts and ambitious minds like Edison's will continue to drive that evolution and lead to future success in business.
*1Wholesale electricity markets provide consumers with "energy choice," whereby they can purchase the electricity they need when they need it and from the most affordable sources.
*2Distributed Energy Resources are relatively small, decentralized, and flexible power generation technologies that can be located closer to the consumers they serve than larger, centralized power stations.
This article appeared in Asahi Shimbun's "GLOBE" feature of July 3, 2016.