The Weekend Wonk: Amory Lovins on Japan’s Renewable Transition
August 17, 2013
While googling Amory Lovins response to misinformation about Germany, came upon this re his study of Japanese renewables. Have only watched the first 15 minutes so far, but looks worthwhile. Japan appears to be the next Germany. As two of the world’s most highly competitive manufacturing economies slip into renewable overdrive, it gets harder and harder for science haters to demonize renewables.
What’s the hottest solar end-market region on the planet? Japan is making a strong case for top billing in 2013, according to recent analysis.
Not content with being the second-hottest solar market this year, Japan appears poised to actually take the top spot after a spectacular first quarter, according to new calculations from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. BNEF’s new calculations for solar installations, which now take into account a surge in first-quarter installations in Japan, span a big range: 6.9-9.4 GW, raising the low end of BNEF’s previous estimate of 6.1 GW. That likely will nudge Japan ahead of China, and well ahead of other top regions including the U.S., Germany, and Italy (the latter two falling off precipitously this year).
Japan was already poised for partial top billing in 2013, after IHS analysts (née IMS Research) suggested that even if installations don’t catch up to China as measured in gigawatts, it’ll likely be tops in terms of revenue thanks to the comparably high prices for PV systems. IHS sees Japan’s share of global PV system revenue rising to 24 percent in 2013, compared with 14 percent in 2012 and 9 percent in 2011.
A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush. In a densely populated nation hungry for alternative energy, Hokkaido is an obvious choice to host projects, because of the availability of relatively large patches of inexpensive land. Unused industrial park areas, idle land inside a motor race circuit, a former horse ranch—all are being converted to solar farms. (See related, “Pictures: A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan.”)
But there’s a problem with this boom in Japan’s north. Although one-quarter of the largest solar projects approved under Japan’s new renewables policy are located in Hokkaido, the island accounts for less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand. Experts say Japan will need to act quickly to make sure the power generated in Hokkaido flows to where it is needed. And that means modernizing a grid that currently doesn’t have capacity for all the projects proposed, installing a giant battery—planned to be the world’s largest—to store power when the sun isn’t shining, and ensuring connections so power can flow across the island nation. (See related, “In Japan, Solar Panels Aid in Tsunami Rebuilding.”)