Renewable energy Japan: solar, wind, geo-thermal, and bio-mass



Renewable energy adoption (beyond hydro) in Japan only really started after March 2011

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Renewable energy Japan: still mostly water power

Japan’s renewable energy generation is overwhelmingly water power. The ratio of renewable power generation has decreased from 25% of total electricity generation in 1970 to 10% today. Extremely aggressive feed-in tariffs (FIT) for renewable energy introduced in July 2012 are showing first modest results to reverse this trend – initially solar energy projects dominate FIT projects, since solar projects are fastest to build. Larger projects, such as off-shore wind power, or geo-thermal projects, take a very much longer time to plan and build – on the order of 10 years or longer.

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Renewable energy japan: Japan's electricity generation from renewable sources
Japan’s electricity generation from renewable sources

Japan’s ratio of electricity generation from renewable resources has dropped from 25% to 10% over the period 1970-2012

Over the years, electricity generation from nuclear and thermal sources has grown much faster than from renewable sources in Japan. As a result, electricity generation from renewable resources has dropped from around 25% in 1970 to around 10% in 2012. In 2012, Japan’s Government and industry associations have announced aggressive plans to reverse this trend

Renewable energy japan: Japan's renewable energy is overwhelmingly water power
Japan’s renewable energy is overwhelmingly water power

Renewable energy Japan: water power dominates renewable energy in Japan

This figure shows all electricity generation in Japan from renewable sources: Japan currently relies overwhelmingly on water power for renewable energy, which varies between 5% of total electricity in winter and around 12%-15% of total in summer, with an overall decrease since 2006. The figure shows that other renewable energy sources (wind, solar, geo-thermal and bio-mass) are still in the very early stages of development.
More details in our report on “Renewable energy in Japan”

Hydro power

Japan installed a considerable amount of both flow-type and pump-power hydro-power stations. (Pump-power hydro-power stations typically have a water reservoir with a dam at an elevated location, and a reversible generator/pump engine, which can act both as an electricity generator and as a pump, and thus act as giant batteries).

With Japan’s focus on construction of nuclear power supply, development of hydropower ended in the 1990s.

However, there is considerable capacity remaining to develop hydropower generation further in Japan, and in particular also small water power stations. Currently many local electricity enterprises build electric micro-power generation systems.

Detailed installed hydro power capacity data and electricity generation statistics and analysis in our report “Renewable energy in Japan”

Pump storage hydro power

Pump-power hydro-power stations typically have a water reservoir with a dam at an elevated location, and a reversible generator/pump engine, which can act both as an electricity generator and as a pump, and thus act as giant batteries.

Pump-storage hydro power were developed as part of the network of large centralized nuclear and thermal power stations.

Detailed installed pump storage hydro power capacity data and electricity generation statistics and analysis in our report “Renewable energy in Japan”

Solar

solar japan : Driven by high LNG costs Japan approves almost as much solar energy projects in a single month as ever installed in Germany
Driven by high LNG costs Japan approves almost as much solar energy projects in a single month as ever installed in Germany

Under the law feed-in-tariffs are periodically reviewed and adjusted. In fact, feed-in-tariffs for solar energy have already been reduced by about 10% this year and are likely to be decreased further next year. For some types of feed-in-tariffs however, increases are under discussions – thus the FIT-tariffs for off-shore wind maybe increased in the future.

Since feed-in-tariffs for solar are set for a period of 20 years, and are decreased periodically, there is great incentive to start solar installations as early as possible, in fact some Mega-Solar plants were switched on on July 1, 2012 to use every possible day. Currently there is a rush of solar operators starting up and expanding in Japan – exactly the effect the Government had intended by setting high feed-in-tariffs.

Renewable energy japan: Project approvals under Japan's feed-in-tariff program for renewable energy are 93.8% for solar plants
Project approvals under Japan’s feed-in-tariff program for renewable energy are 93.8% for solar plants

The renewable energy mix approved under the FIT program is very different to Japan’s traditional renewable energy mix, which was predominantly large scale water power plants.

Renewable energy japan: Prior to the introduction of feed-in-tariffs, renewable energy in Japan was predominantly large scale (greater than 1 MegaWatt) water power
Prior to the introduction of feed-in-tariffs, renewable energy in Japan was predominantly large scale (greater than 1 MegaWatt) water power.

Read detailed statistical data for installed renewable capacity and electricity generation and analysis in our report on Japan’s renewable energy sector – click here.

Wind

Wind power generation is at a very low level in Japan compared to most other countries.

Detailed installed wind capacity data and electricity generation statistics, and scenarios for development of wind power in Japan in our report “Renewable energy in Japan”

Geo-thermal

With a large number of volcanoes and its location on the “ring of fire”, Japan has one of the highest potentials for geo-thermal power generation in the world.

Japan developed geo-thermal power generation up until the 1990s, and then terminated development because of the focus on nuclear power plant construction.

Detailed installed wind capacity data and electricity generation statistics, and scenarios for development of wind power in Japan in our report “Renewable energy in Japan”

Bio-mass

Japan’s installed bio-mass generation capacity is about 5 times higher than Japan’s developed geo-thermal capacity, see our news article “Japan biomass electricity generation booming“.

Japan biomass - Biomass electricity generation capacity in Japan approaches 4 GigaWatt
Biomass electricity generation capacity in Japan approaches 4 GigaWatt

Detailed installed bio-mass data and analysis in our report “Renewable energy in Japan”

Ocean power

We know of a few isolated experimental ocean power trials, but we are not aware of large scale projects.

Feed in tariffs (FIT)

Feed-in-tariffs for renewable energy where introduced in two stages in Japan. Large scale introduction of feed-in-tariffs (FIT) started with the Law entitled “Special measures concerning renewable energy electric power procurement by operators of electrical utilities law” which came into force on July 1, 2012. However, subsidies and feed-in-tariffs were already in place earlier for residential solar (mostly on roof-tops of private homes). Projects approved under the FIT program of July 1, 2012 amount to an increase of 41% in nominal renewable electrical generation capacity. Feed-in-tariffs however are not the whole story, because there are also programs for financial support, special finance arrangements, and tax benefits, and other support programs.

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