Kyocera: ‘Severe’ Japanese market conditions easing with shift to self-consumption

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Recently completed Kyocera project in Japan. The company is targeting a doubling of sales in the US residential market for the fiscal year ending 31 March 2016. Image: Kyocera.

Japan’s Kyocera has said tough market conditions contributed to declining sales for its solar products in its homeland over the first half of this financial year, but said that the market for onsite consumption of PV power helped it to an improvement in the third quarter.

The company also said that cost reduction efforts had led to an increase in operating profit for its solar products, and had enjoyed and increase in sales in the US market, targeting a doubling of sales year-on-year in that country's residential space. 

Kyocera confirmed yesterday in reporting financial results up to the end of the third quarter of Japan’s 2016 fiscal year, with figures up to 31 December 2015, that solar sales had declined in Japan compared with the previous nine months. However, this decline was more pronounced over the first six months, with a drop of around 8.9% compared to the previous year period, while in the third quarter the decline appears to have arrested somewhat, representing just a 0.8% drop from the previous fiscal year’s third quarter. It was among three major Japanese manufacturers reported by PV Tech in November to have had declining sales in the domestic solar market for the first half of the fiscal year, along with Panasonic and Sharp.

In a comment sent to PV Tech, the company explained that while the domestic market had slowed over the first six months, between April and December 2015, impacting its business, “planned industrial projects” in the third quarter started to contribute to an improvement in performance.

Japan’s PV industry has seen a number of high profile, policy-driven changes to its market conditions, especially in the large-scale or ‘mega solar’ segments over the past year or so, since grid connections for new installations was temporarily suspended in October 2014.

The introduction of a rule last year that utility companies – which are also Japan’s grid operators – could remotely curtail the output of PV power plants at times of excess supply on the grid for longer than before. This has been said by several sources to have contributed to investor uncertainty this year.

Company says shift to self-consumption model already paying off, targets doubled US sales

The commentary provided by the company said that the market dynamics are already shifting towards an increase in self-consumption projects for commercial and industrial customers, something the government is seen as keen to encourage as it reign in the rapid growth of its feed-in tariff driven PV markets.

“The current business environment in the Japanese solar market is severe, but we believe that solar energy will continually play an important role in developments,” Kyocera company spokeswoman Hina Morioka said yesterday.

These included the shift to a self-consumption market, policies to promote Zero Energy housing and Japan’s targeted ratio of 22% to 24% renewables in its energy mix by 2030.

The company also played up new areas it is expanding into, referring to a collaboration with Waseda, one of Japan’s most prestigious university’s that it has just begun, on offering automated demand response from aggregated residential units, in an offering to combine solar, storage, energy management and related products.

Kyocera also told PV Tech it is expecting to double its sales in the US residential market for the year ending March 2016 compared to the previous fiscal year, as well as considering “combining sales of solar modules and storage batteries, in addition to actively engaging in the solar power generation business”. The company comment also referred to plans in Thailand to execute FiT projects. 

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