The Japan government continues to promote the use of renewable energy and lower the percentage of electricity generated from nuclear power. In July 2012, the government announced a full buy-back scheme which successfully stimulated solar installations. Installations in the fourth quarter of 2012 alone reached over 1GW and the total 2012 installations showed an on-year increase of about 200%. A new feed-in-tariff (FIT) will become effective in April 2013. Under the new scheme, the FIT for solar PV systems under 10kW is lowered to JPY38/kWh (US$0.40/kWh) and the FIT for systems above 10kW is lowered to JPY37.8/kWh. Ahead of the cuts, the Japan market has been experiencing a surge of installations.
Digitimes Research predicts the total solar installations in Japan to reach 3.2-3.5GW in 2013.
Due to geographical limitations and high population density, the Japan market mainly focuses on residential solar PV systems. The government has also simplified procedures by allowing online applications for small-size solar PV systems under 50kW. Japan has also been promoting large-size solar PV system projects by expanding subsidies, which has attracted many investors, and the market share in fourth-quarter 2012 of large-size solar PV systems was comparable to residential systems. However, large-size installations have many construction restrictions, and therefore demand has not been as high as rooftop systems and the market has been reaching saturation. Many firms still focus on the residential segment in Japan.
The Japan market offers many opportunities for solar firms as other markets are currently engaged in a trade war. Japan-made solar products do not have stronger quality or efficiency compared to brands from other countries, and at the same time China-made products have been gaining market support. Hence, it remains to be seen whether local firms will benefit from the government subsidies.