Earlier this month the Microsoft Power & Utilities Team spent a week visiting customers and partners in Japan. It goes without saying that the Power & Utilities sector in Japan is in unrest due to the earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant.
As we traveled from Tokyo to Sendai we were able to observe first had the tremendous devastation that the tsunami at unleashed on the country side. But at the same time we were amazed on how much progress has been made in the clean-up and restoration effort. We flew out of Japan’s Sendai airport and were treated to an amazing pictorial of the devastation and the remarkable recovery and restoration efforts. Japan’s Sendai airport was washed over by the Tsunami and you can watch an amazing video of the tsunami surge washing across Sendai Airport’s ramp and jet way areas here.
By last count only 11 of the country’s 54 nuclear reactors are operating forcing the world’s third-largest importer of oil and top importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to use even more of those fuels to generate power to plug the nuclear shortfall. This situation is putting enormous stress on the electric power system and all the Utilities are working with their customers to implement energy efficiency programs to reduce demand and internal cost reductions to make up for the high cost of burning oil and LNG. Diversification of the generation portfolio, improved operational information for better decision making and cost reductions where the themes repeated at each Utility we visited.
Historically, Japan has been a bit unique in terms of market structure and their adoption of international standards as many of the solutions used by Utilities in Japan have been either home grown or provided by the large local suppliers especially for Japanese Utility industry. But with the earthquake and tsunami disasters we see things starting to change as our conversations focused strong desire emerging for more standard solutions that can result in not only cost reductions but improve operational performance and customer centricity. This trend fits perfectly with our enterprise investments in four areas that we believe are fundamental to helping our customers run competitive, efficient organizations: the cloud, consumerization of IT, productivity and our investment with Utility industry solutions with our partners.
Much of the customer discussions centered on our smart energy reference architecture (SERA) and how it can be used apply standards to solve enterprise wide integration issues, create agility to free up data in disparate systems across the Utility value chain and provide solutions for the lowest total cost of ownership.
During the trip we were able to meet with global partners Accenture, OpenText, OSIsoft and local partner CTC. Our account teams are working actively with these partners to provide solutions to help optimize operations and information management, improve customer service and to reduce costs for the Japanese Utilities.
While the Utility industry in Japan is currently in a bit of turmoil, we see it entering into an era marked by new business initiatives and technology investments and we at Microsoft are delighted to be in a position to help. – Jon C. Arnold & Larry Cochrane