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Could This Chromebook Maker Be a Real Threat to Global Utilities?

A lot of hype around product innovation and electronic gadgetry came out of the recent 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but despite Japanese technology company Toshiba (NASDAQOTH: TOSBF  ) unveiling its 13.3 inch Chromebook at the event, I'm really much more interested in the next generation energy technology the company is quietly building. 

Toshiba is teaming with Gagfah S.A., (NASDAQOTH: GGFHF  ) , one of the biggest residential property companies in Germany, to enter the German solar market with an on-site consumption model. This could spell electricity price relief for residential apartment building tenants at a time when prices continue to rise, thanks in part to Germany's move away from nuclear power post-Fukushima. This isn't a totally new endeavor into solar by Toshiba since the Japanese industrial giant moved into solar PV in 2009, but it speaks volumes considering the residential opportunities to help lower reliance on the grid and lower consumer prices, two major issues that could make Toshiba enemy number one for utility players.

Keep in mind, Toshiba is trying to boost its stake in British nuclear power firm NuGen and bought Westinghouse Electric back in 2006 in the hopes of ramping up its nuclear business. However, a more long-term view on growth in nuclear power may be helping to facilitate the company's decision to boost its presence in solar to see more immediate financial results. In fact, Toshiba's new onsite consumption model, which is slated to jump from 3MW to 100MW of solar power in just two years, may be indicative the company is looking to become a big player in energy storage and home energy management solutions.

If that's the case, Toshiba, which has an existing partnership with Mitsubishi Electric to sell power conditioners for large-scale solar projects in China and India, may be gently putting utilities such as E.ON (NASDAQOTH: EONGY  ) and RWE  (NASDAQOTH: RWEOY  ) on notice that their business model is utterly flawed. That makes Toshiba a unique solar story that may look to bring its Mitsubishi venture to Germany while simultaneously boosting its presence in other renewable markets such as wind through its acquisition of Sigma Power last Fall and in geothermal, a new area where the company is moving forward in Kenya. One thing's for sure: Global utilities should be paying attention to this electronics giant's growing focus on renewable energy. 

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John Licata

John Licata is the Founder & Chief Energy Strategist of Blue Phoenix Inc. You can follow John on Twitter @bluephoenixinc

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