Itochu, a foremost Japanese corporation which has sold over 330MWh of inhabited battery storage systems in its home market, has spend ¥1 billion (US$9.35 million) in TRENDE, a renewable power retailer which counts value company Tokyo Electric Power among its main shareholders, with a view to releasing a range of renewable energy and storage-enabled services.
TRENDE was started up by Tokyo Electric, one of the 10 regional monopoly utility companies across Japan which are also responsible for the transmission and distribution network in their service areas. Japan’s electricity market is undergoing a gradual deregulation and unbundling process and hundreds of new electricity businesses have been set up in anticipation of increased customer fluidity.
With other investors onboard including Japanese petroleum company Idemitsu and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority as well as Itochu, TRENDE has launched both a simplified utility retail plan business and a no-money-down, third-party leasing prosumer solar energy installation business.
Itochu meanwhile is involved in everything from homebuilding to metals and minerals. It is involved in the lithium battery value chain from the upstream of lithium extraction, handling certain materials essential for the creation of batteries from raw materials like spodumene and fluorite to intermediate materials such as lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, battery materials such as cathodes, binders and separators.
It doesn’t make the batteries themselves, it buys them back in from partners like LG Chem and Samsung SDI, but then assembles complete systems using those batteries and sells them to customers packaged in various formats for residential and small commercial use in Japan and elsewhere. The battery systems are controlled and optimised using Gridshare, an artificial intelligence (AI) software platform developed by UK energy storage company Moixa – in which Tokyo Electric was actually an investor before the Itochu partnership, bringing the start-up to Itochu’s attention.