Load forecasters TESLA open Japan office

Source: Energy News

Author: Jacob McSweeny

TESLA Forecasting has expanded its Asia-Pacific presence by opening a Tokyo office.

And what’s more impressive is they’ve done it on the back of very limited Japanese language skills, the company’s Asia-Pacific business development director Mark Todoroff says.

TESLA garnered attention for itself when it finished second in a forecast competition in Tokyo in 2017.

“Word got around and that was our feather in our cap to knock on doors,” Todoroff says.

From there contacts in Japan have been happy to help with translations as needed. 

“We’ve honestly been lucky where some power clients have maybe an existing client that knows about us, speaks a bit of English, is willing to do the translation for us.

“People have seen the value of our service and really come to us.”

It’s been slow going over the past six years to get to this point, Todoroff admits, as the country has taken time for retailers to develop and enter the market, which deregulated in 2016.

Growth goals

The forecasting subscription company now has a Japanese speaking team and dedicated office in Tokyo. 

Among its clients it counts eight power trading houses, two of the 10 regional system operators and one retailer. Those clients pay to see the hourly forecasting data, which is based off weather and demand information.  

Todoroff says the goal of having the Tokyo office is to get more retail customers, who stand to benefit from more detailed demand forecasting.

“It’s just a really big market for us and a lot of eyes are on it,” he says.

The Tokyo office will comprise TESLA’s Japan business development manager Tetsuya Totsuka working with new partners Skipping Stone, an energy consulting and technology services firm.

The Virginia-headquartered load forecasters first opened its Asia-Pacific regional office in Auckland in 2010 and has had a contract with Transpower to do forecasts since last year.

“We’re looking forward to getting more contracts like that in Japan,” Todoroff says. 

“Not just working with power traders looking to have a forecast that’s more accurate than what’s publicly available, but actually making forecasts that operationally make the Japanese power market more efficient.”

Demand differences

Unsurprisingly, demand in Japan is huge compared to New Zealand. The peak in just Tokyo is 55 gigawatts whereas here it is about 7 GW.

“There are really clear seasons meaning it’s really weather sensitive, meaning the demand does fluctuate quite rapidly.”

Todoroff says concerns about LNG supply and coal have been a big driver of household prices going up about 30 per cent this year. Japan’s government uses power saving policies paying consumers to use less.

One power saving campaign is known as Cool Biz where workers were encouraged to wear short-sleeved shirts in the summer and office temperatures were set to 28 degrees Celsius.

Todoroff says all of those factors make demand a lot more elastic.

TESLA expects to open an office in Romania in the next couple of years – it has a legal entity set up there with one person in the country. 

Overall the company wants to focus on deregulated markets and Vietnam is one of the most recent to move to that model, Todoroff says.

Regulated markets do have a need for demand forecasts “but there’s only one customer. It’s difficult to make business sense to go all in.”

The Philippines is another market TESLA is trying to develop more. Todoroff says the country’s profile is a tricky one with a five-minute trading period and a very unpredictable climate.