With 100GW of solar by 2030 Japan could meet 11% of demand, says industry group

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The Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA) has issued a strategy document outlining how the country could reach 100GW of installed PV generation capacity by 2030.

“PV Outlook 2030 – aiming for a sure path to a Smart Country” is an addendum to PV Outlook 2030, which has been published by JPEA at irregular intervals since 2010, with the last iteration issued in 2013.

In the document, the association explains that after the introduction of the FiT in 2012 spurred on the rapid increase of renewable energy, followed by a number of significant barriers and challenges at technical, regulatory and political level, it has become a matter of priority to carefully manage the Japanese PV industry’s progress towards 2030.

Somewhere between a forecast and a roadmap, the document has been issued numerous times since first being issued under a different name in 2002. JPEA said it has added to the previous version of the 2030 document to incorporate some lessons from the past year or so. The organisation also wrote that with 2030 now only 15 years away it was considered necessary to publish the new outline to support Japan’s industry as it transitions away from these recent high profile shocks to a more stable future.

JPEA says that 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 that measure be taken to raise the value of the domestic solar industry from being worth around 1% of GDP at present to double that figure by 2030.

Looking at the rest of the world, JPEA said Japan was not uncommon among countries with a maturing solar energy industry to be facing some of the trials it has, including balancing the peaks of solar production with demand.

The association, which styles itself more as a loose technical organisation of industry participants and stakeholders than an advocacy or lobbying group, last week also issued its latest monthly PV module shipment figures. According to JPEA, the Japanese industry shipped a total of 1.24GW in March 2015.

Earlier this month, the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF), which unlike JPEA is more of an advocacy group, issued a joint statement ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics along with the Japanese branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The two organisations pointed out the “ambitious” sustainability goals set for the Olympics and made a number or proposals for how these could be met. These include promoting the best use of renewable energy and educating the Japanese public around the issues, as well as partnering with as many stakeholders as possible on sustainability projects and targets.

“Triggered by the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, Japan achieved high economic growth and became one of the major economic powers. On the other hand, 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 statement warns.

“In the Tokyo 2020 Games, Japan should lead the world in taking responsibility and presenting specific measures for these efforts.”

JPEA and JREF/WWF’s announcements have come shortly after Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) reported statistics for energy consumption in the country in the 2013 Financial Year.

The statistics show the possible scale of the task facing Japan in balancing its energy mix. Energy consumption overall in Japan has fallen 4.9% since the year preceding the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear shutdown, showing a 5.4% reduction from businesses and 7.4% from households, with a smaller drop, just over 1%, in the transport sector.

The energy debate in Japan is both complex and emotionally charged, as well as being inextricably linked to the country’s economic welfare. As is well known, the current government headed by prime minister Shinzo Abe seems set on a nuclear restart, although the scale and timeframe of reactivating nuclear plants is disputed, with some ageing reactors recommended for permanent decommissioning.

Meanwhile, utility companies have been widely reported by the international press to prefer the socially borne costs of nuclear to fossil fuel imports and lobby groups for heavy industry have been accused of both standing in the way of renewable energy development and of angling for the nuclear reactors to return.

Further complicating the issue is the fact that as a low emissions technology, nuclear offers an opportunity to make progress on carbon dioxide reductions. Tellingly, the METI assessment of energy use and demand pointed out that emissions increased in Japan by 8.4% between FY2010 and FY2013, as fossil fuels were burned to make up the shortfall left by nuclear.

An exploration of some of the recent and ongoing issues facing Japan's solar industry can be found in Volume 2 of PV Tech Power.

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