Japan is currently the world’s most attractive photovoltaic market. This is the conclusion at the end of the three day 6th PV Expo Tokyo. Meanwhile, optimistic forecasts predict 5 GW of new capacity in 2013. However, warnings have been issued regarding an overheating of the market.
Together with low interest rates from the banks, a high environmental and quality awareness, a high degree of legal and planning certainty, and a high demand for replacement power following the shutdown of most nuclear plants following the Fukushima disaster, have fueled the growth of the country’s photovoltaic market.
As such, many international companies have been attracted to Japan. In particular, those which offer high quality products have positive chances of success, as the many discussions with exhibitors at PV Expo Tokyo evidenced.
Photovoltaic inverter manufacturer SMA, for example, has reported dazzling business in Japan. The company opened a new branch office in the country last June. Since last September, it has sold over 200 MW worth of inverters, mostly for photovoltaic plants over 500 kW in size, says Yoshimi Murakami, representative director, Japan.
Business in Japan is also booming for Schletter. The mounting system supplier opened its Japanese office last April and, since then, has sold more than 25 MW worth of product, around 10 MW of which have been for roof systems, according to Dominik Grützner, director Schletter, Japan.
The Germany-based company has stood its ground against domestic competition, thanks to its extensive experience with mounting systems, particularly for larger roof and ground-mounted systems. "We can offer high quality products for twice as less [as the competition]," states Schletter’s Grützner.
Another advantage is that most Japanese customers are "very enthusiastic about technology" and rely on high-quality engineering. Kurt Krannich of Krannich Solar sees Japan as a "very attractive" market, especially for companies that focus on quality and service. The Germany-based wholesaler opened its Japanese office just last month.
Japan additionally offers new sales opportunities for small overseas photovoltaic module manufacturers, as Luxor Solar, also based in Germany, shows. "Our sales performance of 2.5 MW since last September surpassed our expectations," says CEO, Volker Leh. Luxor offers modules with a positive tolerance of 1.5 to 6.5 Watts. It further cooperates with a local system integrator.
China’s JinkoSolar also announced the opening of its new sales office in Tokyo, today. ''Japan has taken a leading role in the global development and utilization of this clean and sustainable energy solution,'' explains chairman Xiande Li.
A slight shadow over the optimistic mood at the event was cast by some warnings that the market could become overheated.
"The current FIT, which enables double digit returns, is much too high and not sustainable," states, for example, Ash Sharma, director, IHS Solar. There is a risk that if the Japanese Government doesn’t lower the tariffs, the market will explode, with all the known negative consequences that brings.
The planned reduction of the tariffs in April is not said to be sufficient, and further steps are needed. Sharma predicts that 2013 will see 5 GW of photovoltaic capacity added. If not checked, this could grow to 10 GW in 2014, he adds.
The government is reportedly planning to take into account this fact. The FIT program, launched last July, is also limited to three years. What comes after that, Kuniko Misawa, general manager, marketing division, Suntech, states, is still open.
In any case, for the upcoming PV Expo Tokyo 2014, the organizers are expecting growth. "We are already overbooked," says Hajime Suzuki, director or organizer, Reed Exhibitions Japan. Already, over 800 exhibitors are said to have registered for next year’s event. This year saw 590 photovoltaic companies attend.
Translated and edited by Becky Beetz.
Angelia Katte from Green Valley
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