Companies responsible for 748 Japanese solar power projects that have gained approval to receive the feed-in tariff (FiT) but have not yet been built have been handed a temporary reprieve.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has now ruled that developers of the projects, which include a number of so-called 'mega' projects of above 1MW, will be given until either March or August to get paperwork pertaining to land rights or equipment accreditation in order.

The decision follows a survey of PV projects of over 400kW capacity launched in October, which has revealed that the projects, from 670 developers, do not have either land or equipment deals in place.

The survey, conducted METI, was instigated after it transpired that as few as 10% of the country’s FiT-approved projects have been built. While many projects are thought to have faced legitimate obstacles to their construction, it was thought that some developers could be deliberately holding off and waiting for equipment and other costs to fall before going ahead with projects in order to maximise returns.

Speaking to PV Tech by telephone, Munehiro Nakagawa, a spokesman for METI’s renewable energy and new energy technologies division, said hearings will be held for companies that have acquired neither land rights nor equipment accreditation by the end of March. The hearings are likely to trigger a process of revocation of FiT eligibility.

On the other hand, where a company behind a project has procured land rights but not equipment accreditation, or vice versa, METI has allowed until the end of August for both to be shown to be in order. Developers behind projects that do not have both sets of documentation by 31 August will be called before hearings, with revocation of FiT eligibility the most likely outcome if they still do not have both in place, Nakagawa said.

This year, METI and the Japanese government have appointed a working group to discuss and determine FiT levels for the various available forms of renewable energy.

According to a METI news release: “The working group consists of experts and consumer representatives, who are familiar with the electricity field, since the subject to be discussed involves technology and requires a high level of professionalism.” Industry figures and associations including the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA) have been asked to observe the group's meetings.

The working group is led by Dr Kenji Yamaji, director and chief researcher at the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE), which was established by the Japanese government in 1990. The rest of the group consists of five other academics, a lawyer and Yuko Sakita who is a journalist, environmental advisor and chief of a sustainable living NGO. 

The group held its first meeting on 18 February. Nakagawa said that deliberation and discussion held by the working group would be published on the METI homepage in due course. According to Nakagawa of METI, FiT prices, which are re-established annually, will be announced on an unspecified date in Mid-March, ahead of the next Japanese fiscal year, which begins on 1 April.

A Tokyo-based American employee of a technical consulting firm to solar projects, who asked to remain anonymous, told PV Tech that the industry widely expected the FiT to fall by around 10% again this year as it did in the last Japanese fiscal year. According to the source: “If this is the case, it’s still a good FiT relative to other places in the world so the [Japanese] PV industry should still be good.”

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