Japan accelerates purchase of surplus
solar electricity at homes
Nov 1, 2009 - The Associated Press
The government launched Sunday a new program that
enables power companies to purchase at higher rates
surplus electricity produced by solar power generation
systems installed in homes, schools and hospitals.
The move is Japan's latest attempt to make photovoltaic
generation, which is cleaner in terms of carbon emissions
than fossil fuels, more popular at the public level
and to step up efforts to fight global warming.
On Saturday, the government said it may further accelerate
such efforts, with Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan
expressing his hope to launch another program during
the year through March 2011, under which utility companies
would buy all the solar electricity generated at homes
Kan said that would help give incentives to people
to install solar panels on their roofs with "the state
not required to spend even 1 yen."
Japanese power companies had earlier introduced their
own purchase programs for surplus home-generated electricity.
But it was left up to them how much they pay for it.
Under the program begun Sunday, effective through
the next 10 years, many of the utility firms will
almost double payments to 48 yen for each kilowatt
generated per hour by households and 24 yen by schools,
hospitals and other facilities.
To cover the rise in costs, the electricity companies
will collect a monthly surcharge of around 30 yen
from every household and organization using electricity
in the country, starting in April.
The surcharge is expected to rise to 50 to 100 yen
in the next five to 10 years and critics say the additional
burden will only weaken consumer sentiment, delaying
Japan's emergence from the economic downturn.
The number of Japanese homes with solar power generation
systems has been increasing due mainly to a government
subsidy program reintroduced in January, the Ministry
of Economy, Trade and Industry said.
But some utility company officials say they are concerned
that the new purchase program could fail to win people's
In order to fight global warming, Prime Minister
Yukio Hatoyama has pledged to cut carbon dioxide and
other greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent from 1990
levels by 2020 on the condition that large economies
such as China and India join a post-Kyoto framework
being discussed to reduce such emissions.
The government and Hatoyama's ruling Democratic Party
of Japan are also considering allowing power companies
to buy electricity generated using other renewable
energy sources such as wind and geothermal heat.
Experts say, however, that the government must urgently
study measures to prevent such policies from adding
to the burden on low income households.