Australia primed as heartland for battery-storage revolution. A major Japanese company, Panasonic, will launch an alliance with Australian companies.
We have mass popularity of rooftop solar in Australia. More than a third of Queensland houses (in Australia) have solar PV and many local and international companies have been tried to generate big business opportunities through this situation.
According to The Australian Financial Review today, the battery-storage wars are breaking out, with Australia in the thick of it. Tesla, while the highest profile, will not be short of combatants.
Raghu Belur, co-founder of Silicon Valley start-up Enphase Energy, which will launch its home battery in Australia in early 2016, points to the wide gap between the typical "feed-in" tariff that a household in Australia will receive for its excess solar power and the price of power from the grid.
Prices for mains-supplied power more than four times as much as the feed-in tariff in some cases make battery storage worth a look.
No surprise, then, about Tesla's early focus on Australia for its Powerwall system, with its sleek, coloured wall-mounted 7-kilowatt-hour or 10kWh batteries to be available in 2016.
Bernstein Research, a bull on the lithium-ion battery space, describes Tesla's system as already "modestly attractive" in Australia – the 20¢ a kilowatt hour spread between wholesale and retail power prices gives a five-year payback.
But the Grattan Institute puts the realistic cost of a Tesla battery, including inverter, charger and installation, at more than $7000 in 2017, too expensive for most. It says the price would have to fall to about $1600 before it made economic sense in Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and by more in other cities.
Yet lithium-ion battery costs have fallen 94 per cent since 1991, while the energy packed into them per kilogram has increased. Bernstein sees usage costs continuing to fall by 20 per cent a year, cannibalising competing technologies for the next decade.
Meanwhile, a major Japanese company,Panasonic, a battery supplier for Powerwall and one of the "big three" lithium ion players alongside Samsung SDI and LG Chem, will launch next week an alliance with Australian electricity retailers targeting home storage.
According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japan will provide Shinkansen technology for a high-speed rail link between Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai under an agreement reached with Thailand on May 27 2015.
Total project costs are estimated in excess of 1 trillion yen (US$8.1 billion). Several hurdles remain, however, including finding the funding.
If the project is realized, it would mark the second time Shinkansen technology has been exported. Taiwan introduced the system in 2007.
According to the transport ministry, the rail link will run for about 670 kilometers. However, the actual route, locations of stations and the start and completion dates of the railway construction have yet to be decided.
The two countries said they would undertake detailed surveys to sort out the matter.
They agreed in 2012 to cooperate on building railway infrastructure in Thailand. But this is the first agreement for Shinkansen technology in Thailand.
The Japanese consortium behind the project could comprise East Japan Railway Co.; Mitsui & Co.; Hitachi Ltd.; and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.
The Abe administration regards infrastructure exports as one of the pillars of its economic growth strategy. In addition to Thailand, it is holding talks with Malaysia, India and the United States to promote Shinkansen technology.
Biggest Japanese freight company, Yamato, to help mom-and-pop stores deliver online orders quickly in Japan
There are more people using delivery service to purchase the products. However, one of the problems which we have in Japan is that small and middle size companies need to handle everything from ordering to shipping their products and it sometimes delays the delivery due to this problem.
According to The Nikkei Asian Review, Yamato Transport, the largest door-to-door delivery service company with market share of 41% in Japan, will support small and midsize companies selling products online by handling everything from order processing to shipping, speeding up order fulfilment.
Many smaller businesses sell household goods and food online, via the Rakuten virtual mall, Amazon Japan or their own websites. Due to limited manpower to process and ship the orders, delivery often takes two or three days.
The Yamato Holdings unit's order and inventory management services, slated to launch next month, will allow these companies to offer same-day delivery within greater Tokyo and beyond.
Yamato will provide a computer system for managing orders, shipping records and other information. Users will be able to centrally control data previously managed separately by sales channels such as e-commerce sites and the companies' own websites. Yamato says its services will allow clients to cut labour costs by 30%.
The computer system will be offered with no initial costs, taking into consideration that many smaller businesses lack financial resources. Instead, fees will be charged according to shipping volume.
Additionally, Yamato will open up its delivery pickup services, so that consumers who place orders with smaller businesses can pick up their goods at nearby convenience stores or Yamato locations.
Based on an estimate that about 200,000 Japanese businesses sell their products online, Yamato aims to sign up 15,000 for its new offering by 2016. Delivery personnel and marketing staffers of group units specializing in information technology will market the services to potential clients.
Small and midsize companies account for a majority of e-commerce businesses in Japan. Yamato seeks to capture shipping demand in the expanding online shopping market.
We have a lot of competitions in fast food industry. Even if big first food chains such as KFC and McDonald, they are revealing new business strategy to attract more people now.
According to The Australian Financial Review, KFC Australia, a pioneer of drive-thru fast-food, is to serve up bite-size stores in metropolitan locations in a bid to protect its 10 per cent share of the $14 billion quick-service restaurant trade as new players enter the market.
The fast-food giant has opened a KFC Urban store in Parramatta in Sydney's west, and is testing the success of the new casual dining format before deciding whether to roll out it out across Australia.
At 110 square metres and with 30 seats, the KFC Urban store is one-third the size of a traditional KFC outlet. With no carparking or drive-thru, the stores are designed for urban rather than suburban locations, and have a more upmarket look and feel to KFC's traditional family-friendly red and white decor.
KFC Australia managing director Tony Lowings said the new format reflects changing consumer trends, the arrival of new competitors and the rising cost of building full-service outlets.
"We have seen the advent of new players in the quick service or fast casual space opening in more urban and inner city locations … generally we have been underpenetrated in those areas," he said.
"We are looking to see if there's an opportunity to set up a contemporary version of KFC, which might compete more effectively for consumers looking for a more upmarket experience. It's something we are playing around with but it's not the key component of our growth agenda," he said.
According to news.com.au, MCDONALD’S wants to simplify, simplify, simplify — but also add a bunch of choices for customers to avoid growing stale.
“The reality is our recent performance has been poor. The numbers don’t lie,” said CEO Steve Easterbrook, who took charge of the world’s biggest hamburger chain on March 1.
Already, McDonald’s has acknowledged the need to simplify food preparation as well. The company has already trimmed its menu to reduce complexity for workers and make it easier for customers to decide what they want.
The company is testing an all-day breakfast menu in San Diego and a “Create Your Taste” option that lets people build their own burgers. Janney analyst Mark Kalinowski has also noted the company is testing a scaled-down version of that program called “Taste Crafted” that is available at drive-thrus.
And on 4 May 2015, McDonald’s launched delivery in New York City in partnership with delivery service Postmates. It plans to offer a mobile app in the U.S. later this year as well.
According to the Australian Financial Review today, Australia's third-largest iron ore producer has held discussions with China's largest steel producer, Baosteel, and China's largest conglomerate, CITIC, about a recapitalision to shore up its balance sheet.
Chinese-linked companies have applied to the Foreign Investment Review Board seeking permission for an investment involving Fortescue Metals Group.
There are no moves to take over Fortescue. Instead, the companies are interested in buying a stake or increasing an existing stake, sources said.
Fortescue and Baosteel already work closely. In June 2012 the two companies merged their magnetite iron ore assets in the Pilbara into a venture called FMG Iron Ore Bridge, which is 88 per cent controlled by the Perth company and 12 per cent owned by the Chinese steel giant.
One source said Fortescue has previously held discussions with CITIC about a potential investment in its rail and port infrastructure.
Fortescue built its business using debt, which has put it under pressure several times when ore prices have weakened.
Fortescue chief executive Nev Power previously said: "A strategic investor would probably be the most appropriate partner for us, I think. We have discussions all the time with people who are interested in asset sales. For us, it is really important that we see the right partners and on the right terms and values."
Fortescue still faces a massive $US4.9 billion debt repayment in 2019.
It is understood an equity selldown of Fortescue's Pilbara mines has been on the cards.
Rio and BHP have many equity joint ventures at the asset level – BHP and Rio partnered with the Japanese long ago, and later the Chinese.
China is Fortescue's main customer so an equity investor would likely come from there too.
Japan had a big disaster in 2011. After the disaster from nuclear power stations, a lot of renewable energy projects have been considered. Japanese Government is encouraging to generate more power from renewable energy sources.
According to The Nikkei Asian Review today, some 22 years after an on-site survey began, construction on a large-scale geothermal power plant in Akita Prefecture kicked off Monday.
The project will generate 42,000kW, or enough electricity for 80,000 households a year, and is expected to cost the consortium of J-Power, Mitsubishi Materials and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical around 30 billion yen ($244 million).
Slated to go online in 2019, the plant in the city of Yuzawa will be Japan's first geothermal station with output of more than 10,000kW in 23 years.
Unlike solar or wind energy, geothermal power can generate electricity around the clock because the heat from the earth's interior is continually replenished.
The consortium established an operating company back in 2010. It recently borrowed a total of 26.2 billion yen from parties including Mizuho Bank, with a government-affiliated entity guaranteeing 80%. Return on investment for geothermal plants is estimated at 13% -- far above the 6% for solar power projects.
The Yuzawa power plant will be the country's fifth-largest geothermal station -- and J-Power's first in 44 years.
More than five other big projects in Japan are also on the drawing board. Idemitsu Kosan and Japan Oil Development are among those conducting drilling surveys.
The government projects geothermal energy to rise from 0.3% of the country's overall power generation mix to around 1% by 2030.
Japan's potential geothermal power supply is estimated at 23.4 million kilowatts, putting the country behind only the U.S. and Indonesia. But 80% lies within the boundaries of national parks, hampering exploitation. Current output stands at a paltry 520,000kW.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, in cooperation with the Ministry of the Environment, plans to relax some of the tough rules to help promote the development of geothermal energy. Specifically, it is considering approving exceptions to a ban on building structures taller than 13 meters.
We have positive news from Japan today.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review today, major Japanese companies are becoming adept at using their capital more efficiently, with one out of three boasting a return on equity -- a key indicator in this regard -- of more than 10%.
Of 1,714 nonfinancial companies listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, 549, or 32%, had an ROE above 10% for fiscal 2014, according to a Nikkei survey. ROE -- net profit divided by shareholder equity -- averages 13% among big U.S. companies and 9% in Europe.
The weakening of the yen helped many businesses reap record profits last fiscal year. At the same time, more Japanese companies opted for share buybacks and dividend hikes, reducing their capital.
Industrial robot maker Fanuc's ROE came to 16.1%, up 6.4 percentage points from fiscal 2013. The company posted a record net profit last fiscal year thanks to brisk sales of its Robodrill machine tools used for making smartphones. Mitsubishi Electric also logged a record profit as sales of factory automation equipment grew. Its ROE rose 3 points to 13.9%.
Companies can boost ROE by either increasing net profit or reducing shareholder equity through such means as paying dividends and buying back shares.
Casio Computer and Brother Industries carried out share buybacks, raising their ROE by 4.4 points to 13.6% and by 9.9 points to 16.8%, respectively.
A growing number of Japanese companies are setting an ROE target as a show of their commitment to shareholders. Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, JFE Holdings and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have vowed to raise their ROE to 10% or higher in three years.
Still, ROE is low at some major Japanese companies relative to figures in the U.S. and Europe. Kirin Holdings' ROE dropped 5.5 points to 3%, partly as intensifying competition hurt profitability.
Japanese prime minister pledges $110B for Asian infrastructure. Australia needs more infrastructure developments to correspond the high population growth. Hopefully more business would be generated between two nations.
We hope that there are more businesses would be generated between Japan and Australia to develop the infrastructure in Australia.
According to The Nikkei Asian Review, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government and the Asian Development Bank will jointly provide $110 billion to finance "innovative" infrastructure in Asia. Innovation, Abe said, is necessary if Asia is to counter the challenges that wait ahead, such as the graying of populations and the ever-increasing demand for energy.
Japan will pursue "innovative infrastructure," such as safe, reliable high-speed rail systems and advanced water treatment systems. "In order to make innovations extend to every corner of Asia, we no longer want a 'cheap, but shoddy' approach," Abe said, and announced a new set of financing methods.
One has the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, the Japanese government's financing arm, actively taking on short-term profit risk. This will ease the pressure on foreign governments to put up guarantees. "Until now," Abe said, "recipient governments' payment guarantees for short-term risk have been requested somewhat excessively."
In another measure, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, which coordinates the government's official development assistance, will team up with the ADB to establish a new fund for private infrastructure development. In addition to lending money, the fund will invest in equity. "The ADB's capacity for mobilizing capital for the private sector will increase to three times its capacity until now," Abe said.
In total, "Japan, in collaboration with the ADB, will provide Asia with innovative infrastructure financing at a scale of $110 billion over five years," he pledged.
"Creating quality. That is the Japanese way of operating."
According to The Australian Financial Review, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane will also enjoy dramatic population growth, severely straining existing transport infrastructure. Infrastructure Australia chairman, Mr Birrell, said the growth would be "massive ... even by international standards".
Sydney and Melbourne will see their populations jump from under 4½ million today to about 6 million in 2031 and about 8½ million in 2061. Perth and Brisbane will leap from around 2 million today to 3 million in 2031 and around 5 million in 2061, with Perth surpassing its northeastern rival.
"We have to accept that we'll have four world-scale cities which will require significantly more infrastructure," Mr Birrell said.
Car and truck drivers in Australia may need to pay higher tolls to the private companies likely to build the new roads and tunnels to stop congestion choking Australia's cities, according to Infrastructure Australia.
"We are seeing congestion problems because governments are struggling to catch up with the economic and population growth that's seeing soaring demand," he told The Australian Financial Review.
Mr Birrell said that if governments take a longer-term view "it becomes clear it's the policy barriers and in particular the funding barriers that are the biggest inhibitions to getting things done".
"Twenty years ago we would have been talking about the engineering challenges of projects. That debate has gone. The issue today is 'How can you fund it?' and 'Can you get the project approved?'"
According to The Australian Financial Review today, Australia is not renowned for its space industry, but if 22-year-old Solange Cunin has anything to do with it, this could be about to change.
The student from the University of New South Wales has co-founded a satellite start-up with fellow 20-something and University of Technology Sydney student, Sebastian Chaoui, aiming to make satellites cheaper and more widely available.
"At the moment it's very difficult to get into space," Ms Cunin said. "If you want to launch a payload, you have to build the entire satellite to go with it. It costs more than $200,000 and takes years because you have to get it tested and certified."
Through Quberider's product Cubesats (miniature satellites), people are able to share space on satellites, reducing the cost by 75 per cent to about $50,000.
Ms Cunin expects the education sector to be the biggest initial customer base, but she has also received enquiries from mining, data and arts companies.
"As we bring down the prices it will mean the demographic of people who can afford space will broaden and new ideas will be generated on how to use space," she said.
Quberider's first customer is UTS and it's part of Microsoft's BizSpark program, but it is yet to receive funding.
Ms Cunin also plans to include a Raspberry Pi electronics board (a low cost, credit-card sized computer) on the satellite so that computer programmers can create and upload code to run in space for a few hundred dollars.
"By having the code run from the satellite in space you can do a number of things such as get your own data without needing to build an entire payload," she said.
Quberider is scheduled to launch its first satellite in late 2016. After six months in orbit the satellite will burn up in the atmosphere to avoid creating more space junk.
Like many start-ups, Ms Cunin is currently running the business from her living room while continuing to study mathematics and aerospace engineering, but she hopes to have a laboratory and an office in the next few months.
"At the moment to work in space you have to move overseas. I'd like to inspire other start-ups to enter the industry. We need to make the step ... to get the industry off the ground."
According to a Japanese newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, Japan has dived into the bidding race to supply Australia with the technical know-how to build a new battle fleet of submarines.
The Abe administration agreed at a National Security Council meeting on May 18 to participate in Australia's selection process for military submersible technology.
If Japan gets the nod as a joint development partner, it would be the first instance of the nation selling technology directly related to weaponry since the government approved new principles on the export of weapons and arms-related science in April 2014.
Australia had made it known it was interested in the specifics of the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Soryu-class of attack submarines as it seeks to replace its current fleet in the 2030s.
Canberra is expected to decide on a partner by year-end. It has also asked Germany and France to join the selection process, but Japan is considered to be the front-runner for a partnership.
The decision reflects the desire of the Abe administration to work in conjunction with the United States and Australia to counter the maritime advances being made by China.
That stance is reflected in the national security legislation submitted to the Diet on May 15 that is designed to vastly expand a range of activities for the SDF to support allied militaries, including those of the United States and Australia.
The new defense cooperation guidelines between Japan and the United States that were approved in April also touch upon the importance of greater cooperation not only between those two nations, but other allies too. The new guidelines state that Tokyo and Washington will "explore opportunities for cooperation with partners on defense equipment and technology."
In a meeting held in Australia in November 2014 between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the three leaders confirmed the need to deepen defense cooperation.
In a May 6 teleconference, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani was formally asked by his Australian counterpart, Kevin Andrews, for Japan's participation in the selection process for new submarines.
With the approval by the National Security Council, Japan will provide Australia with the necessary information required for the selection process. That would be the first time such technological information related to an actual weapon has been released to a foreign nation since the change in the principles on weapons export.
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