Survey: Foreign Solar Panels Cheaper Than Domestic Ones in Japan

2013/12/22 13:24
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute

Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF) took a questionnaire survey with businesses and other organizations that are introducing solar power generation systems and announced the results of the survey Dec 20, 2013.

During the period from Sept 6 to Oct 4, 2013, JREF sent a questionnaire by mail to contractors, developers and their clients that installed 10kW or more of solar power generation facilities in Japan. It was sent to 673 organizations, and 163 (24%) of them answered the questionnaire.

The survey items were (1) business environments and market trends, (2) reasons of project delays and challenges and risks in carrying out a project and (3) costs of solar power generation. In regard to the second item, many of the respondents cited (1) the regulations on the use of land (such as conversion of the land category from an agricultural site), (2) assurance of grid connection and (3) unpredictable prices at which power companies will purchase generated electricity.

When JREF asked about the issue that the constructions of many facilities certified by the government have not started yet, of 117 respondents, 34 cited "a delay in the construction work for grid connection, 31 cited "a delay in parts procurement such as panels," 15 cited "a delay in fundraising," 10 cited "a delay in land procurement" and 15 cited "approvals and licenses concerning development."

There was a trend of lowering costs of solar power generation during the period from fiscal 2012 to the first half of fiscal 2013. But, in the second half of fiscal 2013, the costs are slightly increasing probably due to the increasing prices of imported products caused by the weak yen.

Also, the introduction cost of a solar power generation system greatly differs depending on the scale of the system because of the difference in the unit price of panels. The unit price of panels for low-voltage facilities installed on rooftops is about ¥40,000/kw (approx US$384) higher than the unit price of panels for facilities of an equivalent scale on the ground. And the price of panels made by Japan-based manufacturers was about ¥50,000/km higher than that of panels made by foreign-based manufacturers.