Among the broad spectrum of electric and electronic businesses that Mitsubishi Electric Corp. is engaged in, the Energy & Industrial Systems Group is positioned as one of the more competitive departments, generating “nearly 10 percent of the company’s total sales of ¥4 trillion,” said Executive Officer Yasuyuki Ito, who serves as president of the group.
The group provides systems and products that play a vital role in electric power generation, transmission, distribution and retailing. On the product side, this includes generators, switches, transformers, switchgear and vacuum circuit breakers, while systems include plant monitoring, system stabilization and system preservation and control.
With the prospect of demand increases for electric power equipment due to the economic growth of developing countries and renewals well underway in developed countries, the group has established factories and sales bases around the world, including the U.S. subsidiary, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products, Inc.
“In an increasingly global business climate, we restructured the organization within our group this April, integrating the domestic and overseas divisions of our major businesses: power generation, transmission, distribution, nuclear power and medical systems,” Ito said.
The medical systems business within the group is mainly in charge of particle therapy system, which has been developed by combining the company’s 40 years of expertise in the fields of radiation therapy and accelerator systems.
Utilizing the characteristic features of protons, carbon, and other heavy ions, particle therapy systems allow for the pinpoint targeting of cancerous tumors while minimizing side effects on surrounding tissues. Since the 2000s, it has been increasingly selected as an advanced solution in the treatment of cancer, treating around 23,000 patients in Japan, of which more than 80 percent were treated in the medical facilities equipped with the Mitsubishi devices.
“This is domestically developed, cutting-edge technology, which is one of our competitive businesses,” Ito said proudly.
Aiming to export such equipment and systems, “We want to have our related technology and expertise internationally standardized in the framework of the International Electrotechnical Commission,” Ito said.
Another key area are those related to smart grid systems.
A smart grid is an electricity transmission and distribution network that, in utilizing information technology to address fluctuations in both supply and demand, helps realize the stable flow of electricity. Changes in supply reflect the increased use of renewable energy such as solar power and wind power generation, while changes in the demand for electricity in this instance refers to the ongoing market acceptance of electric vehicles as well as the trend toward all-electric-powered housing.
On one hand, renewable energies are viewed with promise in the quest of a low-carbon society; on the other hand, their volume of power generated fluctuates according to changes in the weather and other conditions. Accordingly, these methods pose considerable difficulties in controlling output.
“The development of exhaustive element technologies that optimally balance electric supply and demand is critical to addressing this issue through the practical application of smart grids,” Ito explained. Also, the policy shift toward separation of electrical power production from power distribution may lead to more electric power suppliers and distributors to newly enter the power network. “Some control systems should be definitely needed,” he added.
Electric companies are accelerating efforts to develop an advanced meter infrastructure (AMI) to improve customer service and reduce meter reading costs. An essential element in this AMI is the smart meter. Mitsubishi Electric has developed AMI technologies and systems that ensure reliability and flexibility in measuring and controlling electricity meters through next generation wireless mesh networks.
“Smart-grid-related businesses are new fields where new technologies and systems are developing,” Ito said. “How to construct a smart grid depends on each countries’ different conditions and requirements. As such networks and related systems will be necessary worldwide in the future, the discussions at the IEC at this time are very important.”
Mitsubishi Electric has implemented a smart grid experiment at three sites in Japan. The objective of this experiment is to operate a real system in the field, to log data and validate fundamental technologies.
“It is one of our advantages that we have real data from these experiment sites that have enabled us to develop innovative and optimal devices and systems,” Ito said. “For the better and more advanced system, we would like to contribute in making new standards in this field. Of course our experts are attending each of the relevant IEC technical committees to discuss and negotiate the standardization of these future technologies,” Ito said.
“I hope that the IEC General Meeting in Tokyo, which is a good opportunity for us to showcase our technologies appealing to an international audience, shall be fruitful and meaningful.”