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Osaka Gas believes that technologies serve as the foundation of corporate competitiveness, and considers R&D to be one of the most important elements in the strategy to make a difference.
For this reason, Osaka Gas works actively on R&D and commercialization of new technologies, as presented below.
“Smart Energy House” is designed to optimize home energy use, including electricity and heat, through total management of the system, featuring “Three Combined Electrical Energy Sources” (a fuel cell, a photovoltaic cell, and a storage battery). While energy-saving performance of energy-consuming devices (gas equipments and home electric appliances) and photovoltaic cells, etc. has been improving year after year, there are limits in improving performance of individual devices. “Smart Energy House” is designed to achieve significant energy conservation by connecting devices via an information network and utilizing energy demand-supply information, without sacrificing convenience and amenities for users.
To attain tough targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% from the 1990 levels by 2020, it is essential to significantly reduce CO2 emissions from the residential sector, although they have been on the increase in recent years, as shown in Fig. 2.
Fig. 3 shows the breakdown of household energy consumption. About half of consumed energy is used for thermal enegy. Extensive popularization of renewable energy systems (e.g., photovoltaic cells) has drawn public attention to reduce household energy consumption. Osaka Gas believes that it is essential not only to promote reduction of electric energy consumption but also to ensure comprehensive management of electric and thermal energy.
For this reason, Osaka Gas has been promoting development of “Smart Energy House” that feature a fuel cell capable of generating electricity with high efficiency and concurrently utilizing generated heat effectively for hot water supply and heating.
A storage battery is controlled to be charged during late night hours, etc. When electricity consumption is small, in order to increase output from a fuel cell and enhance fuel cell electricity efficiency. The electricity charged in storage batteries is used from evening to night, the period of increased electricity consumption. Thus, electricity efficiently generated by a fuel cell can be effectively utilized. Waste heat generated in the electricity generation process is used for hot water supply and heating to further reduce CO2 emissions.
Two houses built in FY 2010 (“Technical Assessment House” and “Experiment House with residents in”) are used to accelerate technical development and collect data, which will be publicized to raise public awareness of their benefits. R&D efforts are underway to market “Smart Energy House” in 2015.