The beginnings of a post FIT-market


From pv magazine 02/2020

The annual installed PV capacity for Japan is expected to be 7 GW (DC) in 2019, according to RTS Corp. Cumulative PV installed capacity now stands at 63 GW. In addition to the robust introduction of small-scale PV projects, the development of already approved large-scale PV projects under the FIT program was advanced by the end of the year, say RTS analysts Takashi Ohigashi and Izumi Kaizuka. This corresponds to measures for approved projects that have not started operating. Also, the authorities continued to promote new installations in various sectors related to PV.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has indicated that it continues to support competitive power sources (large-scale PV and wind power) based on the feed-in premium (FIP) program, alongside a drastic review of the FIT program until the end of fiscal 2020. Independent from the FIT program, it also maintains a framework of the FIT program for locally used power (small-scale PV, etc.), to set requirements for approving installations as locally used power sources.

In order to secure the trust of local communities, METI has also compiled funding schemes to cover the cost of disposal of PV facilities at end of life. In addition, considering damages and blackouts caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons, METI is promoting efforts to strengthen resilience in the energy system, including the development of safety measures and next-generation electricity networks.

Cutting curtailment

As for the electric power business, based on the trends of making renewable energy a mainstream power source, electric companies conducted organizational reforms to promote efforts in renewable energy in 2019. Also, power purchase agreements for surplus electricity from post-FIT residential PV systems have been announced, and competition among electric companies and power producers and suppliers (PPS) has started. In Japan’s Kyushu region, output curtailment of renewable energy was also conducted approximately 60 times between January and December 2019, as in the previous year. Regional utility Kyushu Electric Power started a new program to reduce output curtailment amount by approximately 9%.

Throughout the year, various new business models emerged, including the trend of focusing on the self-consumption market by shifting from dependence on the FIT program – a response to post-FIT residential PV systems and resilience. The introduction of energy systems combining energy generation and energy storage continues to move toward achieving net zero energy consumption, and the development of the zero-yen installation model power purchase agreements through third-party ownership (TPO) is effectively disseminating these efforts.


The current year is expected to be the point – as an early stage in the development of a full-fledged post-FIT market – when PV, storage battery systems, and energy management systems utilizing new business models are developed. In the background, the focus will be on the following three points: 1) progress in cost reductions for renewable energy power generation systems, including PV systems; 2) an increase in demand for electricity from renewable energy sources such as the RE100 initiative; and 3) growing demand to prioritize disaster-prevention measures and resilience in the supply chain and local communities. PV systems will be selected as the leading distributed power source.

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By promptly achieving market independence among major renewable energy sources, it is expected that 2020 will be a year of great progress, when the original value of PV systems to Japan’s energy landscape will be further recognized.

About the authors

Izumi Kaizuka is the manager of the research division at RTS Corp., a PV consulting firm in Tokyo with more than 35 years of history. She is also a member of The PV Market Alliance (PVMA). Kaizuka has led a number of research projects for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), and other government organizations. She has been Japan’s representative for the IEA PVPS Task 1 (Group for PV strategic analysis and communication) since 2003. She is also one of the authors of the IEA PVPS Trends Report, which describes conditions in the PV market.

Takahashi Ohigashi is a director and senior analyst at RTS Corp., and has been with the company since 1995. Ohigashi is a member of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and sits on a review board that selects projects for new energy technologies. He has published a wide range of research PV technology and markets, including studies conducted for Japan’s Ministry of Trade and Industry and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Japan’s 2019 PV highlights by segment

National government
  • METI is promoting efforts to strengthen resilience, including the development of safety measures for natural disasters, etc. and next generation electricity networks.
  • The lowest winning bid price in the fourth tender for ≥ 500 kW PV projects was JPY 11.5/kWh ($0.106/kWh).
  • Decided to partially revise the Ordinance for Enforcement of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Act, which include the installation works of PV power plants as the subjects of the EIA Act.
  • Ministry of Economy significantly increased projects supporting the introduction of energy equipment such as storage batteries and PV modules.
  • Cabinet approval on the long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategy (long-term strategy) based on the Paris Agreement.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), Kanagawa Prefecture, and iChoosr started joint purchase of PV facilities
  • Tochigi Prefecture requested the national government to revise the tax system so that it can impose a tax on PV power producers having unmanned PV facilities.
  • Mimasaka City of Okayama Prefecture compiled a proposal of an ordinance to establish earmarked tax stipulated by local ordinance called “Tax on PV modules for commercial applications”.
Electric companies
  • Conducted organizational reforms to promote efforts on renewable energy
  • Announced the power purchase tariffs for surplus electricity for post-FIT residential PV systems
  • Efforts to promote PV systems for self-consumption and zero-Yen installation expanded.
  • Kyushu Electric Power conducted output curtailment of renewable energy (61 times in total) and started new operation to reduce the output curtailment amount of renewable energy by approximately 9 %
  • Organization for Cross-regional Coordination of Transmission Operators, Japan (OCCTO) categorized the electric grids in the Chiba Prefecture area as non-firm connection grids.
  • J-POWER invested in VPP Japan and entered into the PV business.
  • Foreign manufacturers ranked the top five manufacturers in the PV module shipment in Japan in FY 2018 and the ratio of imported products increased further (Hanwha Q-Cells ranked the first place for the second straight year).
  • Major Japanese PV manufacturers promoted business model transition to enhance competitiveness, and reorganized their production frameworks, transferred their businesses to and formed business tie-ups with Chinese companies, and entered into the electric power service business, etc.
  • The post-FIT market for residential PV systems was established, and various new business models increased, such as free-of-charge installation plans, sales of storage batteries, and proposal for self-consumption.
Power generation business
  • Responding to a political measures to FIT-approved PV projects which have not started operation, the construction of >10 MW large-scale PV projects was activated.
  • NTT announced a plan to invest approximately 600 billion Yen ($ 5.52 billion) in the electric power business including the establishment of its own transmission networks.
  • Due to Typhoon No.15, the fire occurred at the Chiba Yamakura Floating Mega Solar Power Plant.
  • Overseas development progressed, and Marubeni started operation of a 1.17-GW PV project in UAE.
Support service for power generation business
  • Efforts on highly advanced remote monitoring, maintenance, and power generation forecasting of PV facilities progressed.
  • Awareness of PV module disposal increased, and companies started to progress recycling business in full scale.
  • Issuance of green bonds for renewable energy business, progressed.
  • Listed issues on the Infrastructure Fund Market increased to six companies, and acquisition of power plant after listing gained momentum.
  • Local banks strengthened financing toward the introduction of PV systems for self-consumption by SMEs.
Technology development
  • Major domestic PV manufacturers promoted technical development toward the commercialization of high-performance solar cells, such as combined-type solar cells with heterojunction back-contact structure and perovskite/silicon tandem solar cells as well as the commercialization of lightweight flexible PV modules.
  • NEDO, Toyota Motor, and Sharp started the driving tests of demonstration vehicles with Vehicle Integrated PV (VIPV).
  • Demonstration and product development of organic type solar cells as IoT device power sources and environmental power generation elements progressed.
  • Development and demonstration of electricity system technology toward the expansion of renewable energy use progressed (storage batteries, VPP, P2P, and the utilization of EMS big data).
  • AI technology and machine learning were utilized for detecting malfunction of PV power plants and forecasting the power generation amount.
Installation trend
  • The FIT approval of PV project business plans for projects with capacity 20 kW or more reached ca. 400,000 projects totaling ca. 60 GW nationwide as of August 31, 2019.
  • Annual PV installed capacity in 2019 in Japan is estimated to be 7 GWDC (5.5 GWAC) and cumulative PV installed capacity to be 63.5 GWDC.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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