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U.S. firm Opower looks to offer power-saving advice for Japan

JIJI

Opower, a U.S. software company that provides advice on energy efficiency to households, is studying a plan to enter the Japanese market, possibly in late 2013, company officials have said.

The Virginia company is negotiating with Japanese power suppliers on possible cooperation for the service and has started research aimed at figuring out details about electricity consumption by Japanese households, the officials said.

Opower’s service is expected to benefit both power companies and users in Japan at a time when the country has been hit by electricity shortages following the March 2011 meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station and by power rate hikes amid the shutdowns of nuclear plants.

An Opower official in charge of the negotiations said the company can help Japanese consumers find ways to reduce electricity consumption.

The company also hopes to join hands with Japanese trading houses to boost its customer base in the country.

It plans to begin the power-saving advisory service initially on an experimental basis by teaming up with two or more power suppliers, according to the officials.

Opower advises households through mail and email on how best to cut their power consumption by analyzing data on their electricity use. Households do not need to pay for the Opower service, which is provided based on contracts between the firm and power companies.

Opower currently offers its service in Britain, Canada and France as well as the United States. It has helped households in these countries save electricity by 1.5-3.5 percent a month. In addition to Japan, the company is also considering entering Australia, Germany and Italy, according to the officials.

In a survey Opower conducted of more than 1,000 people in Japan, some respondents said that such a service is good because it can help raise awareness of the need to reduce electricity consumption. Japanese are seeking more information than ever on power-saving, they said.