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

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on reddit
Reddit
Share on email
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.

19 October 2021
This year’s EV World Congress will hold a special role, not only as the first live EverythingEV event in over a year – a chance to renew your connections and re-engage with the EV sector face to face – but also as a chance to share insight and inspiration as world starts to look towards move on post COVID towards hitting ambitious decarbonisation goals in 2030 and beyond. As ever, we will be bringing world leading organisations, cities, and technology providers to the UK to inspire EV innovators, and delve into the challenges facing the sector as the UK looks to revolutionise road transport.
20 October 2021
Utility-scale solar is evolving, shaped by higher power modules and demand for increasingly lower levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). Those trends are also changing project requirements elsewhere, with inverters capable of delivering high power density and power capacity in strong demand. In this webinar, FIMER will detail how its innovative high-power, multi-MPPT string inverter and modular conversion solution can both meet those demands and transform the utility-scale solar sector for the better.
20 October 2021
The race is on but we need to sprint… With global climate talks fast approaching and time running out to prevent the most disastrous impacts of climate change, now is the time to act. The Summit will explore the opportunities that emerge from taking action on climate change and provide a clear pathway forward for governments, citizens and companies. Taking place just 10 days before the G20 meeting in Rome, on 30-31 of October, and in the lead up to the critical COP26 meeting in Glasgow from 31 October–12 November, this event will be instrumental in influencing ambitious global action.
10 November 2021
The solar tracker market continues to mature at breakneck speed, with designs and component selections becoming ever-more complex in the pursuit of better project economics. But a more simplistic design could deliver a triple benefit of lower Capex, EPC and Opex costs. This webinar will set out the ideal single axis tracker design for utility-scale solar farms. The design leapfrogs from decades of experience, with a comprehensive understanding and attention to the three cost structures of Capex, EPC and Opx. Sun and Steel Solar has prototyped a single axis tracker designed to deliver up to US$0.03/W in real savings compared to existing single axis trackers on the market. That’s US$30 million for every gigawatt deployed.
15 November 2021
The 10th edition of the famous Metallization and Interconnection Workshop, MIW2021, will take place in the Thor Central venue in Genk, Belgium, on Monday, November 15, and Tuesday, November 16, 2021 as a face-to-face meeting. We are longing for direct exchange of knowledge and ideas after a long time. Hopefully you can be part of it! But of course, the organizors will keep an eye on the evolution of the Covid pandemic. It will be assess carefully, whether the workshop can be held without major risks or excessive restrictions. We are looking forward to exciting talks, discussions and meetings and to welcoming you in Genk!
23 November 2021
The solar, storage and EV industries in the UK are going from strength to strength. There is no better place for the community to meet, share ideas and do business than Solar & Storage Live from 23-25 November at the NEC.There’s something for everyone; more than 150 exhibitors, a high-level conference, a start up and innovation zone, a poster zone, strategic partners to network with and much more. 

Read Next

October 18, 2021
Heterojunction cell and module manufacturer Meyer Burger has appointed a new CFO just one year after incumbent Jürgen Schiffer took on the role.
October 18, 2021
Italian grid operator Terna has acquired Italian solar O&M provider LT in a €24 million (US$27.8 million) transaction.
October 18, 2021
Recent solar wafer and cell price increases from both LONGi Solar and Tongwei, which have seen prices rise by between 5.6 – 7.7%, have underscored heightened volatility in the solar supply chain.
October 18, 2021
Canadian pension investor OMERS Infrastructure has acquired a 49% interest in the Australian renewable energy platform of utility-scale solar developer Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV).
October 18, 2021
US independent power producer Silicon Ranch has acquired Clearloop, a start-up that helps companies offset their carbon emissions by funding new solar projects.
PV Tech Premium
October 18, 2021
PV Tech Premium speaks with a global shipping analyst to discuss the industry's sky high prices, delays to delivers and when the situation may improve

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
October 19, 2021
BRISTOL, UK
Upcoming Webinars
November 10, 2021
8am (PST) | 5pm (CET)
Solar Media Events
December 1, 2021