Toshiba venture to sell solar power to German consumers

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan's Toshiba Corp will tie up with German real estate company Gagfah SAS to sell energy directly to residents in Germany, people close to the matter told Reuters.

Beginning in March 2014 in two towns in south Germany, Toshiba will fit solar panels on residential properties owned by Gagfah and feed the power generated directly into homes, supplemented with other energy sources to ensure stable supplies, the sources said.

Bypassing the grid should enable Toshiba to cut costs and offer energy at a lower price to consumers without relying on subsidies known as feed-in-tarriffs, a selling point in Germany where a shift away from nuclear power to renewable energy sources has caused a rise in electricity bills.

The sources said it was the first case of a solar-panel maker selling power directly to customers and bypassing the grid, a claim that couldn't immediately be verified.

The sources said Toshiba aims to reach a capacity of 100 megawatts with solar power and generate revenues of 19 billion yen (S$232 million) to 24 billion yen from the installation of the infrastructure and sale of electricity in the next three years.

Investors would fund the solar panels and their installation and sell the power they produced back to Toshiba, which would take the place of an energy utility and sell it directly to consumers at a lower price than that of the grid.

Gagfah, one of Germany's largest real estate companies with around 145,000 properties, announced a pilot of the project with Toshiba in February in the town of Ostfildren, near Stuttgart.

Sources said Toshiba will fit solar panels on 700 residences in Ostfildren and the nearby town of Villingen-Schwenningen starting in March. Storage batteries will be added to the local network once it has grown sufficiently.

Toshiba hopes to expand the scheme to Italy and parts of Asia, the sources said, including Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to either pose a cheaper alternative to schemes using subsidies or to provide energy to areas outside the existing grid.

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