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Solar Power Booming In Japan

A first gold rush driven by generous subsidies led to an uncontrolled boom in solar power projects in Japan, of which, however, only a very small percentage actually got built. Now, however, the government has taken charge and serious developers are entering the market. The liberalisation of the Japanese retail market in 2016 is expected to give another boost to solar power, as consumers will likely drive demand for renewable energy. The Japanese government and the big utilities, however, are hedging their bets: they are not prepared to let go off nuclear power anytime soon. Rudolf ten Hoedt reports from Kagoshima, Japan, home to the largest new solar project in Japan.

In April, Japan published the first update of its Basic Energy Plan since the 2011 nuclear Fukushima collapse. The plan sets policy for the Japanese power sector for two decades. It is updated every three years. The latest revision runs with the hare and hunts with the hounds. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upholds nuclear power as “an important base-load electricity source” while at the same time calling for expanded use of renewable energy.

The new energy policy tries to please those that are concerned with Japan’s energy security and fossil import dependence and the nuclear lobby which exploits this vulnerability, but is also acknowledges the anti-nuclear sentiment in the country by giving a boost to green energy. Most of the plan is rather vague. It does not contain clear targets for nuclear energy, although it does express the aim to push renewables over the 20% threshold by 2030 (of total electricity production). Japanese newspapers quoted the influential Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga AS saying: “For the next three years, we will make (the development) of renewable energy a top priority.” This will certainly apply to solar power, which is already booming in Japan.


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