Japan Renewable Energy Foundation: Grid denial of solar ‘unreasonable’

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email

The sudden withholding of grid access from renewable energy projects including solar is “unreasonable” and could bring “great confusion” to the renewable energy industry, the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF) has claimed.

It has been widely reported that the acceleration of deployment of solar in Japan since the inception of the feed-in tariff (FiT) in mid-2012 has led to a lack of available grid connection in some areas and worries about grid stability. The northern island of Hokkaido was the first area where concerns were raised, where due to the relatively high availability of land, many utility-scale solar power plants were planned but only a fraction were connected.

Then last month, on 24 September, the electric utility responsible for the grid on another island, Kyushu, to the south, suspended approvals for new solar power projects, citing similar grid capacity constraints. A conversation with Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) spokesman Kazuki Aoyama confirmed that similar difficulties were being faced by the utilities of Shikoku, Okinawa and Tohoku. Japan’s electricity network consists of a number of regional utilities who are also responsible for the grid.

Aoyama told PV Tech that a working group had been formed by METI to deal with the grid connection issue and related matters, with the group’s first meeting expected to take place later this month. Additionally, the government is expected to hold a wide ranging review of the FiT at the end of the year.

Developer Canadian Solar released a statement on Monday saying that only one project from its Japanese project pipeline had been affected so far by the suspensions, a 2.3MW project in Kyushu that had yet to gain grid connection approval. Meanwhile, the company said 95.6MW of its Kyushu projects were approved for connection with Canadian Solar targeting a total of 550MW to 600MW of late stage projects in Japan by the end of this year. The company said that during the third quarter, the figure already stood at over 490MW.

Writing on the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation website, the organisation’s director Mika Ohbayashi referred directly to Kyushu Electric Power’s decision to suspend negotiations for the approval of all renewable energy projects except residential solar under 10kW. Ohbayashi argued that while it was true that adding all 12.6GW of renewable energy projects that had been approved up to July would exceed the utility’s minimum daytime demand of 8GW, potentially causing problems, only 3GW of renewable energy projects of all types has gone onto the grid so far. This “abrupt withholding of responses,” Ohbayashi said, was “unreasonable” as a business practise, while as an aspect of the renewable energy industry specifically, it would “bring great confusion”. Ohbayashi argued that this right to refuse should only be exercised with the greatest restraint.

Ohbayashi went on to argue that measures should be considered to aid the intergration of renewables, such as careful monitoring of weather data and a way of recognising and combating the inherent monopoly of utilities that also operate regional grids. Japan’s electricity market is tentatively set to be “unbundled” in 2016, a move which Ohbayashi previously told PV Tech’s sister publication Solar Business Focus, could result in widespread positive changes for the electricity industry. In the latest blog, Ohbayashi said Japan could not afford to wait for this to happen.

However, a report by Bloomberg today also claimed Japan had overspent on the FiT, contributing to consumer electricity prices in Japan being on average 28% higher than they were four years ago, while in the US, consumer prices have only risen by just over 8% in the same period. Ohbayashi was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that solar should be slowed down if spending was too high for the public to shoulder the burden, but that this should be done in a measured way with rigorous reviewing processes. Bloomberg New Energy Finance's recent report on investment levels for renewable energy stated that in the third quarter of 2014 alone, Japan invested US$8.6 billion.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo this week, the chief executive officer of Japanese thin-film solar company Solar Frontier spoke at a forum on climate change, where he praised the distributed nature of solar and its strengths in being part of the solution to environmental problems. Atsuhiko Hirano, who became head of the company in July, also said that the democratic nature of solar made it unique in engaging the public on energy issues.

“I believe market-based solutions will be pivotal to driving behavioural change in how we source and use energy. We either change through necessity or through desire. I prefer to have the choice to change. Today’s solar photovoltaic solutions are such market-based solutions, with a unique role to play in the overall future energy landscape,” Hirano said.

“When most people think about the role of solar, they think of it as a substitute for other sources of energy. The unique point of solar photovoltaics is that it’s a form of distributed energy. Solar energy can be installed over a wide range of areas that other sources of energy can’t – on top of homes, on farms, at airports, harbours and anywhere off-grid. And that makes it special. It means that anyone can install solar energy. Anyone can participate. And from the moment an owner starts to generate electricity, they become an active agent in the energy debate. They become part of the solution.”

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe also addressed the conference by video message, while overseas visitors including Matt Hancock, the UK’s Conservative minister for business, enterprise and energy and Didier Houssin of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In other Japan news, Tepco, the electric utility and grid operator responsible for the maintenance and cleanup at the Fukushima nuclear plant, this week signed a deal with another Japanese utility Chubu Electric Power, to become one of the world’s largest purchasers of imported liquid natural gas. Japan lacks fossil fuel resources of its own and since the shutdown of nuclear plants across the country has largely relied on imported fossil fuels to a greater extent, while attempting to foster the expansion of its renewable energy industry with the FiT scheme.

2 December 2021
Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition & conference series for the solar industry. As part of this event series, Intersolar India in Mumbai is India’s most pioneering exhibition and conference for India’s solar industry. It takes place annually and has a focus on the areas of photovoltaics, PV production and solar thermal technologies. Since 2019, Intersolar India is held under the umbrella of The smarter E India – India’s innovation hub for the new energy world.
9 December 2021
The Smart Energy Council is hosting Australia’s second Virtual Smart Energy Conference and Exhibition on Thursday, 9 December 2021. This event will show that the industry powers on despite COVID-19 and we are standing together undeterred in spirit. Bringing our global community together using the latest technology.
13 January 2022
Intersolar North America and Energy Storage North America “Come Together” for the first time in Long Beach, CA—connecting installers, developers, utilities, technology providers, policy makers, and key stakeholders from around the world to advance the clean energy future. With best-in-class conference programming, integrated exhibits and pavilions, and the live Solar Games installer competition, #isnaesna21 will showcase the industry trends, innovative solutions, and emerging talent transforming the solar, energy storage, and e-mobility markets. Register today to redeem our exclusive offer for PV Tech readers—free expo hall or 20% off full conference pass.
1 February 2022
As Solar Finance & Investment enters its ninth year, we sit on the cusp of a new power market with solar at its heart. The 2022 edition of the event will build on our years of expertise and relationships to bring investors and lenders together with top developers. Connect with leaders in the field and use exclusive insights to drive investment and development decisions for the future. Meet new and existing project partners at the largest gathering of European solar investors and lenders.
23 February 2022
Held annually since 2016, the Energy Storage Summit Europe is the place to be for senior stakeholders in the European storage industry. Designed to accelerate deployment of storage, we examine evolving chemistries, business models, project design, revenue stacks and use cases for storage. The 2022 edition will include exclusive content around longer duration solutions, energy strategies for wide-scale deployment of EVs and "EnTech", the event which sits at the intersection of digitisation, decentralisation and decarbonation of the power system. Come to meet TSOs, DSOs, Utilities, Developers, Investors and Lenders and leave with new contacts, partners and a wealth of information.
7 March 2022
Take your chance to join the most powerful platform in the MENA region. Middle East Energy (MEE), Intersolar, and ees, the leading energy exhibitions are joining hands to co-deliver an outstanding renewables and energy storage event at Middle East Energy 2021. Renewables and energy storage at MEE is the largest gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the Middle East & Africa, offering the most effective trade focused platform to international manufacturers and distributors looking to meet regional buyers.

Read Next

December 1, 2021
Major US bank Wells Fargo has closed its maiden tax equity investment into a colocated solar-storage project currently under construction in New Mexico, US.
PV Tech Premium
December 1, 2021
The price of shipping containers from Asia to Europe and North America remains high but should start to come down in the new year, although the main price drops won’t occur in earnest until 2023 when new capacity is brought online. That additional capacity, however, may be offset by new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) rules to address the industry’s emissions
December 1, 2021
Enefit Green, the renewables subsidiary of Estonian state-owned utility Eesti Energia, is looking to procure up to 500MW of solar modules in the next three years.
December 1, 2021
Tech major Amazon has added a further 2GW to its committed utility-scale solar PV capacity, adding projects in the US and Europe to its renewables portfolio.
December 1, 2021
Global solar PV deployment is on track to grow by 17% this year in spite of surging commodity prices increasing manufacturing costs, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
December 1, 2021
The European Commission (EC) has approved the extension of Poland’s auction scheme for renewable resources that is predicted to support the creation of 9GW of renewables after it passed EU state aid rules

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
February 1, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
February 23, 2022
London, UK
Solar Media Events
March 23, 2022
Austin, Texas, USA
Solar Media Events
March 29, 2022
Lisbon, Portugal