Japan's PV module shipments soar

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According to a report published by Japan’s Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA) this week, demand for solar PV modules in the country from July to September reached 2.074 GW. This, JPEA says, corresponds to a 330.9% increase on a year-on-year basis.

Of the 2.074 GW demand, 1.2 GW, or approximately 58% of the demand, came from imported PV modules. This brings Japanese demand for photovoltaic modules in the first nine months of 2013 to 5.45 GW. Given that this trend is projected to continue in the fourth quarter of the year, the country is on track to become the world’s second-largest solar PV market in 2013 after China.

In contrast, exports of Japanese modules reached only 37.7 MW, 10 MW more than in the second quarter.

The JPEA further reports that shipments for the residential market grew 121% year-on-year to 540 MW, while commercial applications showed even more impressive growth: Shipments for private business installations such as offices, factories, private schools and hospitals, grew 647.4% to 602 MW while shipments for utility-scale projects grew 1049.1% to 747 MW.

Japan’s market to remain strong despite FIT cuts

With its impressive high rate growth, the Japanese market is attracting increasing interest from the global PV industry.

However a separate report published by the EnergyTrend division of the Taiwan-based global market research group TrendForce says Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) may be considering revising PV subsidies downward to JPY 34 ($0.33) per kilowatt hour in 2014 and JPY 30 per kilowatt hour in 2015.

Yet EnergyTrend says solar PV installations will nevertheless increase significantly should the rumors materialize, adding that Japan’s market demand in both 2014 and 2015 is projected to remain strong.

EnergyTrend points out that that a 10% decline in Japan’s PV subsidy in 2014 and 2015 remains within the range estimated by the industry in order to bring a certain level of profit and return on investment to the manufacturers. The research group predicts that Japan’s return on investment will be around 17%, based on the subsidy rate in 2015 and taking relevant cost changes into consideration. Compared to other countries, the Japanese market remains highly profitable.

The EnergyTrend report has also projected that Japan’s market growth will very much benefit Taiwanese and Chinese manufacturers. This, EnergyTrend reports, is due to the fact that Japanese firms focus primarily on systems, therefore "they normally choose to outsource modules and cells, which benefits Taiwanese and Chinese manufacturers."

The EnergyTrend report concludes by saying that PV systems installation in Japan might slow down in the immediate months due to the weather being increasingly less suitable for construction but adds that it will increase again significantly by the end of March. It also warns that albeit 19 GW demand awaits Japan in 2014, "the growth of the grid can’t seem to catch up with that of PV system installations."

While the Japanese government is aggressively seeking to reverse the country’s energy deficit by developing the country’s PV sector, it also needs a serious plan to upgrade its electricity grid in order to accommodate soaring PV demand.