Can Japan Be The Second Biggest Market For Solar Power, With The Help of Feed-In-Tariff ?

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Dear Friends & Visitors/Readers/Viewers,

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Despite its small physical size,  Japan has been expanding its solar power since the 1990’s and is a leading manufacturer of solar panels, ranking in the top five for countries with the most solar PV installed.  Japan had the third largest solar capacity in the world, next to Germany and Spain, in 2009.  Japan is the world’s fourth largest energy consumer, making solar power an important national project.  The Japanese government is planning to expand solar power using subsidies and feed-in-tariff, aiming to have 70% of new homes with solar power installed.  The Japanese government enacted the feed-in-tariff in November, 2009, that requires utilities to purchase excess solar power sent to the grid by homes and businesses and pay twice the standard electricity rate for that power. On June 18, 2012, a new feed-in-tariff of 42 yen/kWh (about 0.406 Euro/kWh or 0.534 USD/kWh) was approved and became effective on July 1, 2012.  Impact due to feed-in-tariff may be seen in the steepness of the blue line (in the graph at right below) since 2009. The tariff covers the first ten years of excess generation for systems less than 10 kW. Let’s take a look at some data pertaining to Japanese solar power trend:

PV Module Prices of Japan From 1992-2011 (wikimedia commons)

PV Cell Production and Shipment (GWp) in Japan: Total (orange), Export (green), and Domestic (blue) (wikimedia commons)

After Fukushima incident, the Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan signaled for change in energy policy. “Based on the recent accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), I think it is necessary to discuss the scrap of the current Basic Energy Plan, where the ratio of the nuclear energy is expected to be more than 50 percent in 2030,” said Kan in a news conference.  “The past energy policy has regarded nuclear energy and fossil fuels as two major pillars in electricity,” he continued. “With the recent accidents, I think two additional pillars are important. The first additional pillar is to add renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, as well as biomass, to the core energy resources.” (source: optic.org, May 11, 2011)

Japanese people learned and acted quickly: the first three solar plants by TEPCO were completed in 2011 and 2012, the Ukishima Solar Power Plant (7 MW), the Ohgishima Solar Power Plant (13 MW), and the Komekurayama Solar Power Plant (10 MW).

Komekurayama Solar Power Station owned and operated by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture (wikimedia commons)

The output of all three can be monitored on the internet. (source: tepco.co.jp).  Near the industrial district of Tomakomai, a 200 MW photovoltaic station has also been proposed on the island of Hokkaido. Plans will be set after the proposed Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) has been finalized.  Many new projects such as the proposed 70 MW plant by Kyocera in Kagoshima and a 100 MW plant by Toshiba in Minami Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, will be constructed to take advantage of the new feed-in-tariff. For better understanding of FIT, (an incentive program for renewable energy that had been responsible for great deal of job creations,  widespread renewable energy installations, and Germany’s leadership position in renewable energy world), please visit April 17, 2012, post of Sun Is The Future and sunisthefuture Youtube Channel.

For a summary of the total installed solar power in Japan between 1992-2011, take a look at this graph, below:

Total Installed Solar Power (MWp) Between 1992-2011 in Japan (wikimedia commons)


Above is a clip of high efficiency Panasonic HIT solar panels at various places in Japan. Japanese, as a group, is very cautious and practical. They have tried and tested many different avenues in optimizing their energy infrastructure and decided that Feed-In-Tariff is the smart way to go! Feed-In-Tariff does not ask the government for free solar panels but is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in renewable technologies.  It achieves this by offering long-term contracts and price certainty to renewable energy producers and help finance renewable energy investments, typically based on the cost of generation of each technology. Please refer to wikipedia page on Feed-In-Tariff.

Perhaps we can take advantage of the lessons learned by others/Japan…it will certainly be less expensive…isn’t it time for us here is USA to seriously consider implementing effective Feed-In-Tariff for Solar/Renewable Energy…not just in Hawaii, but throughout our 50 states?!

~have a bright and sunny day~

researched, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker, sunisthefuture@gmail.com
Homepage: http://www.sunisthefuture.net


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