Japan’s Renewed Solar Power Push

The world’s second largest economy and fifth biggest emitter of greenhouse gases is making a renewed effort to spark uptake of solar power systems as it scrambles to meet its Kyoto obligations.

Once the world’s leader in solar panel production and still making a quarter of the world’s solar cells, the scrapping of Japan’s solar subsidies in 2006 not only reduced solar uptake locally, but contributed to local solar panel makers Sharp being overtaken Gemany’s Q-Cells and  Kyocera trumped by China’s Suntech in the global market.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced on Tuesday  9 billion yen (AUD$145 million) in the first quarter of 2009 to encourage home solar power; with further funding to come. Japan aims to have solar power systems installed on over 70% of new houses.

In an action plan tabled in November, Japan confirmed targets of increasing the number of installations of solar power generation systems tenfold by 2020 and 40-fold by 2030, while halving the current price of systems within three to five years. The new program will have a substantial positive impact on Japan’s solar industry and generate thousands of new jobs.

As the country struggles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the action plan outlines a wide range of programs to be implemented soon; from solar power education in schools, to the development of refined deep cycle battery technologies, to the installation of grid connect solar power systems in elementary, junior high, high schools as well as universities and other schools, plus public facilities.

Japan is heavily dependent on imports for its energy as the country has very little in the way of coal, oil and natural gas reserves. Aside from the environmental and economic benefits, an economy based on a larger portion of renewable energy will also help Japan gain a greater degree of energy independence.