Japanese electricity companies are temporarily scaling back their involvement with solar projects as solar supply outstrips demand, threatening to wreak havoc in the market, according to EnergyTrend, a division of the Taiwan-based market intelligence firm TrendForce.

In September, Kyushu (X) Electric Power Co., Ltd. became the first Japanese firm to announce it would not sign any additional purchase contracts with solar manufacturers until further notice.

Soon after, Kyushu, Shikoku Electric Power Company, Tohoku Electric Power Company, Hokkaido Electric Power Company and Okinawa Electric Power Company also announced they would not take on any new solar power projects. Meanwhile, current Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) schemes heavily skewed toward solar power have led to some problems. As a result, the Mineral and Natural Resources Division of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is mulling whether to adjust the FiT schemes of different renewables, and have decided not to place too much emphasis on solar power. Some scholars and experts are expected to submit relevant reform proposals by the end of the year.

“Japan has always been seen as a market with stable policy in solar power and has room to grow, but recently, as policy has become unpredictable, some major solar projects have been affected,” said Angus Kao, a research manager at EnergyTrend. “This may herald the end of Japan’s solar power revolution.” Still, the residential solar power market is emerging in Japan and qualifies for government subsidies, Kao said, adding that companies are beginning to offer comprehensive services in that sub-sector.

Research by EnergyTrend shows that the exported modules from China to Japan in the first half of 2014 hit a record high. And China’s percentage of both Japan’s 255W and 260 W imports has grown from 14% in the first quarter to 21% in the third quarter. Japan is also Taiwan’s primary module export market. Taiwan exported almost 200 MW to Japan in the first half of 2014. But Taiwan’s share of the Japanese market is relatively low compared to manufacturers from China.

There are still some manufacturers in Japan who have been approved for solar projects and they have deadlines to meet, so the market will continue to grow for a while, Kao said. But in the future, Japan’s solar market will grow at relatively slower pace and its focus will switch to roof-based solar systems, he added.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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