Markets

Japan’s PV market outlook: settled after major growth


16 Sept. 2015 by Jason Deign, Solarplaza

Following a spell as one of the fastest-growing solar markets in the world, Japan looks set to follow a more sedate rate of PV adoption from now on.


Japan Solar


A drop in Japanese solar installations could mark the onset of slower growth for what was until recently one of the world’s fastest-growing PV markets. Solar panel shipments fell 13% in the second quarter of 2015, the first drop since PV incentives became available, in 2012.

Bloomberg reported the slide could be “a sign the market may be cooling three years after the country introduced generous incentives to boost the industry.”

Up until now, the Japanese market has been powering ahead.

This puts Japan among the top 10 markets worldwide for utility-scale solar growth, after Honduras, the Philippines, Mexico, Australia, Pakistan and the UK.

Despite the last quarter’s fall in shipments, Wiki-Solar analysis of half-year utility-scale solar installations shows Japan growing at almost 42%, with 600 MW of new plant bringing the nation’s total installed capacity up to 1.44 GW.

This puts Japan among the top 10 markets worldwide for utility-scale solar growth, after Honduras, the Philippines, Mexico, Australia, Pakistan and the UK.

Japan is also among the top solar markets in terms of per-capita capacity. In 2014 the country installed about 76 W of solar power per person, putting it ahead of markets including Liechtenstein (with 68 W), Switzerland (44 W) and the UK (36 W).

This catapulted Japan into the top 10 markets worldwide in terms of cumulative installed capacity per capita, as tracked by SolarSuperState.org. With a cumulative 183 W per head of population, Japan outgunned Spain, Denmark, the USA and China.

“Japan installed mainly ground-mounted photovoltaic plants in contradiction [sic] to Switzerland with mainly rooftop installations,” said SolarSuperState in a press release. “The potential of (small) roof-top installations remains untapped in Japan.”

Continued strong demand for solar is likely to see Japan remaining among the top three PV markets worldwide by cumulative capacity in 2020.

The press note continued: “The annual additions should and could be easily increased considerably with a better Japanese policy framework (also with less luxurious feed-in tariffs as today).”

Continued strong demand for solar is likely to see Japan remaining among the top three PV markets worldwide by cumulative capacity in 2020, according to the consultancy group Apricum.

Its PV Market Model Q3 2015 predicts Japan will reach the end of the decade with a total installed capacity of 57 GW, beaten only by the USA with 83 GW and China with 180 GW.  

By then, says Lux Research of Boston, USA, new solar installations in Japan to drop to less than 6.5 GW a year. That is still a very significant level, but Lux analyst Mark Barineau said the market’s growth rate had peaked. “From now until 2020 it will be much more stable,” he said.

Land-use issues will force Japanese developers to seek higher-efficiency solar technologies that can provide greater wattage per square metre, and to build plants on low-value real estate such as reservoirs and landfill sites, he predicted.

“It’s still going to be one of the major markets globally, but it’s not going to grow in the way it has since the Fukushima disaster,” he said.