Japan’s Program to Boost Clean Energy Starts to Show Progress

  • Power generated from solar, wind and biomass reached 39.2 TWh
  • Solar output jumped 61% to 31.3 TWh amid feed-in tariff

Japan’s program to encourage more clean sources of energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 is seeing signs of progress, with the latest government data showing that the nation produced 45 percent more electricity from renewables such as solar and wind in the fiscal year ended in March compared with a year earlier.

Clean energy output, excluding hydro power, increased to 39.2 terawatt hours in the 12 months ended March 31, according to data released Wednesday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Solar outpaced other renewable sources, increasing 61 percent to 31.3 terawatt hours. Wind inched up 7 percent to 5.4 terawatt hours.

By comparison, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant that melted down in March 2011 produced 29.3 terawatt hours in 2010 before the disaster, according to figures from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Overall, Japan derived 4.7 percent of its electricity from renewables last fiscal year when hydro isn’t included, according to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. The government is aiming to derive about 14 percent of its electricity by 2030 from sources such as wind, solar and geothermal.

The increase comes after the introduction of a feed-in tariff program that boosted installations of clean energy, especially solar. But the boom is now showing signs of weakening, with domestic shipments of solar modules falling 23 percent last fiscal year, marking the first annual drop since the introduction of the incentive program.

The system where feed-in tariffs are offered to any developer whose project qualifies has led to quick booms in installations from Germany to Spain along with other markets where it’s been tried.

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