Lessons from Japan Illustrate Critical Importance of Utilities to Solar Growth in the U.S.

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Despite obvious differences in the size and style of the utility-scale solar market in the two countries, there are clear parallels in how policy has shaped solar markets in both the United States and Japan. That is the main finding of a report released today by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), entitled “Policy Changes Trigger Resurgence of Japan’s Solar Market.”

Policy Changes Trigger Resurgence of Japan's Solar Market.

Despite obvious differences in the size and style of the utility-scale solar market in the two countries, there are clear parallels in how policy has shaped solar markets in both the United States and Japan. That is the main finding of a report released today by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), entitled “Policy Changes Trigger Resurgence of Japan’s Solar Market.” SEPA organized a fact finding mission of utility leaders to Japan earlier this year as part of the organization’s ongoing commitment to helping utilities make smart solar decisions.

The fact finding mission, conducted in July, studied the experience of Japanese utilities and solar industry in integrating a large amount of distributed photovoltaics (PV) into the grid, explored the solar research initiatives undertaken by the Japanese government and its research bodies, and investigated the effect of Japan’s solar policies on the commercialization of solar technologies.

“Even though utility-owned solar generation is not a focus of Japanese utilities,” said Julia Hamm, SEPA President and CEO, “they know they have a major role to play in integrating customer-owned PV systems into the grid.”

The report details the key findings from meetings with Japanese utility and solar industry leaders, as well as tours of solar facilities. Key takeaways explored in the report include:

-- The motivations behind Japan’s renewed emphasis on aggressive solar development, including economic, environmental, energy security and resource diversity concerns.
-- The critical role for electric utilities in the successful implementation of federal policy and commercialization goals.
-- The research underway on the technical impacts of high concentrations of PV on the distribution grid.

After visiting Germany in 2008 and Spain in 2009, SEPA returns to Europe in 2011 when the organization will lead a fact finding mission to Italy in early May.

“The solar industry in Italy is enjoying unprecedented growth right now, and could be poised to join our other destinations among the world’s leading markets,” said Hamm. “The 2011 fact finding mission will provide our members with up-close looks at the Italian solar power industry and face-to-face meetings with Italy’s utility and solar decision makers.”

The final report on the 2010 fact finding mission to Japan is available free to members ($500 for non-members) at http://www.solarelectricpower.org/resources/reports.aspx.

For more information about SEPA’s fact finding missions, including the 2011 trip to Italy, visit SEPA’s website at http://www.solarelectricpower.org/events/fact-finding-missions.aspx.

ABOUT SEPA
The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) is an educational non-profit organization dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios. With more than 750 utility and solar industry members, SEPA provides unbiased utility solar market intelligence, up-to-date information about technologies and business models, and peer-to-peer interaction. From hosting national events to one-on-one counseling, SEPA helps utilities make smart solar decisions. For more information, visit http://www.solarelectricpower.org.

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