Article originally published in cleantechnica.com, on april 29th 2015.
The Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association, a group of industry companies and stakeholders, recently issued a strategy document outlining how Japan solar could reach 100GW of installed PV generation capacity by 2030. “PV Outlook 2030–Aiming for a Sure Path to a Smart Country” updates “PV Outlook 2030,” last published by JPEA in 2013 and part of a series dating back to 2002.
The update details the acceleration of renewable energy, significant barriers, and challenges at the technical, regulatory, and political levels since the FIT was introduced in 2012. With 2030 only 15 years away, the new outline will support Japan’s industry as it transitions away from recent high-profile shocks to a more stable future. Emissions increased by 8.4% between FY2010 and FY2013 as fossil fuels replaced lost nuclear production.
The report follows the release of energy consumption statistics for the 2013 financial year by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. It summarizes the energy mix challenge. Overall energy consumption in the nation fell 4.9% since the year before the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear shutdown. Business use dropped by 5.4%; households, 7.4%; and transport, just over 1%. Balancing the peaks of solar production with demand presents another challenge. From the news release:
“By 2020, Japan could target 65.7GW of solar capacity, raising the bar from predictions made in 2013 for 49.4GW by that date. By reaching 100GW by 2030, the country would be meeting around 11.2% of its overall power generation demand with PV.”
JPEA also recommends doubling the value of the domestic solar industry from its current 1% of GDP by 2030. The association also issued its latest monthly PV module shipment figures: 1.24GW in March 2015.
Japan solar is about to become profitable, Reuters reported Monday. Residential solar power production now costs less than half of 2010 prices and now compare favorably to average household electricity prices. Says Tomas Kåberger, executive board chairman of Japan Renewable Energy Foundation:
“Solar has come of age in Japan and from now on will be replacing imported uranium and fossil fuels. In trying to protect their fossil fuel and nuclear (plants), Japan’s electric power companies can only delay developments here.”
The technology will have achieved “commercial viability” in all of the G7 countries when it reaches complete parity.
In this week’s summit meeting between US President Barack Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as the two leaders spoke about trade matters, they committed themselves in a Vision Statement “to promote strong, sustainable and balanced global growth; to deliver secure, affordable, sustainable and safe energy; [and] to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.”
Anticipating the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, JPEA, JREF, and the Japanese branch of the World Wildlife Fund issued a joint statement about “ambitious” sustainability goals set for the Olympics. They made a number or proposals for how these could be met:
- Promoting the best use of renewable energy,
- Educating the Japanese public around the issues, and
- Partnering with as many stakeholders as possible on sustainability projects and targets.
With commendable candor, the group pointed out that although the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games propelled Japan into high economic growth and major economic status, “Japan has placed an unsustainable burden on our planet as a result of this growth. The research results from The Living Planet Report 2014 published by WWF shows that we would need an equivalent of 2.3 planets if everyone in the world lived in the same lifestyle as the average Japanese citizen does.”
The topic of energy in Japan—vital to the country’s economic welfare—is both complex and emotionally charged.
- Prime minister Shinzo Abe would like to restart the shuttered nuclear plants as well as permanently shut down some of the older reactors.
- Utilities have been widely reported to prefer the costs of nuclear—which are socially borne—to fossil fuel imports.
- Lobbyists for heavy industry have stood in the way of developing renewables energy development and also campaigned for nuclear reactors to return.
- Low-emission nuclear power would help the nation progress with decarbonization.
The good news is that the yet-young renewable industry, being fast pursued on both large and small scales, and some momentum to recoup part of a significant nuclear investment signal reductions in both Japan’s use of fossil fuels and its growing emissions problem.