Japan’s rapidly expanding solar ambitions

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Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to announce tomorrow, at the G8 rich nations meeting in France, a 15-fold increase in the country’s use of solar power by 2030, reports Reuters.

The Nikkei newspaper further claims that Kan will announce a plan to make it compulsory for all new buildings to have solar panels installed on their roofs, also by the 2030 date.

Since fuel meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, the public’s enthusiasm for nuclear power has waned.

Prime Minister Kan has repeatedly committed to reviewing from scratch the country’s Basic Energy Plan, which aimed at increasing their reliance on nuclear power to more than 50 percent.

At a press conference held last week, he said his government will be, "promoting natural energies" including solar and that it has introduced a feed-in tariff scheme into the current parliamentary session. Kan added that he "has high expectations for the significant role that the passage of this bill will have," in the promotion of renewable energies.

Japanese business is also joining the push towards solar energy. Japan’s richest man Masayoshi Son, the CEO and president of Japanese telecom company Softbank today announced plans to build 10 large solar plants in partnership with local authorities.

Each plant would cost about $97 million and would form an "Eastern Japan Solar Belt", which would also help revitalize the tsunami affected region. The funding for the scheme is unclear, but is expected to come partly from Son, in addition to local authorities and borrowed funds.

The head of the non-profit Institute for Sustainable Energy Tetsunari Iida worked with Son on the plans for the solar plants and said that Japan should aim at supplying 100 percent of its power from renewable sources. "It’s an ambitious goal, but I believe we should work for it," told the Japan Times.

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