PV Japan 2013, smaller and more focused

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With the Japanese solar market overheating and module prices coming under pressure, the focus shifted from manufacturing to supporting technologies, such as mounting and drilling systems, at this year’s PV Japan trade show.

With talks more focused and project-related, there was a positive mood among exhibitors, said pv magazine correspondent Izumi Kaizuka but the show was noticeably smaller than its Japanese rival PV Expo.

Marketing and sales director for pv magazine, Andrea Jeremias, pointed out an almost complete lack of inverter companies at this year’s event but said there are clear opportunities for foreign players in the mounting systems segment because of the high price of Japanese systems.

Not surprisingly, mounting system companies from neighbouring China are already making inroads into the Japanese market.

Jeremias added the show had a focus on drilling systems, modules and components although the overheating solar market in the country is posing risks to module quality with Kaizuka estimating Chinese manufacturers have carved out a 20-25 per cent slice of the cake – although SunPower, REC and SolarWorld are making advances thanks to effective local partnerships.

Uncertainty over the durability of the generous FIT regime was a recurring theme at this year’s show with Kaizuka adding several companies are unsure what will happen when the FIT rates are reviewed by the Japanese government in three years’ time.

Reporting on the keynote speech given by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), Jeremias said renewables are estimated to account for 1.6 per cent of Japan’s energy use with wind also being encouraged by the government.

The ministry speaker recognized achieving renewables targets is impossible without subsidies but, ominously for the companies making a dash for Tokyo, the speaker announced that once those targets are met, FITs will cease.