By Nicolas Leprêtre
By tracing how the Japanese State has elaborated and implemented a smart city ‘national model’ called smart community, this article aims at understanding strategies and representations that led to deployment of so-called smart technologies. I argue that the smart communities programme reveals a consensual approach that gives flexibility in the implementation of projects. The Japanese State positioned itself in favor of smart grids to maintain the international competitiveness of companies that are strategic for its economy. A ’national model’ combining smart grids and electromobility through decentralized energy management is developed to target key technologies that will be deployed on the international market. In practice however, each technological role varies according to power relations in local demonstration projects and depends on new stakes that emerged from the Fukushima accident, namely the liberalization of the electricity market and a desire for autonomy in energy production. The establishment of a ’national model’ of smart community thus highlights the will of adaptability in implementing energy policies, more than a potential reconfiguration of the large technical system. In conclusion, the article explores the use of a ’model’ to bolster innovation and exemplarity of local initiatives.