As Japan's renewable energy feed-in tariff (FiT) took effect July 1, the first big solar plants came online and the country began to grapple with its longer term energy mix.
Households and businesses are now getting paid for the solar they send to the grid, municipalities turned on systems to supply clean energy to hundreds of thousands of people, and the first of SB Energy's plants came online, a 2.1 megawatt (MW) operation in Kyoto and 2.4 MW plant in Gunma prefecture.
That's just the start for SB Energy Corp., a subsidiary of Japan's third-biggest mobile phone company, Softbank Corp.
SB Energy plans to build Japan's largest solar plant - 111 MW in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, due to start operations in 2014. That trumps the 100 MW project Toshiba recently accounced as well as the 70 MW floating solar plant by Kyocera.
Altogether, SB Energy has plans for 11 solar and wind plants for a total of 200 MW.
At the same time, Japan ended almost two nuclear-free months before re-starting two reactors, with more expected, and legislation passed to build a brand new plant.
Nuclear plants generated almost 30% of Japan's electricity before the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, and fossil fuels have since picked up the slack. Fossil fuels currently supply 90% of Japan's electricity, with hydro providing the rest.
By mid-June, more than 7.5 million signatures were collected for a petition to end nuclear power entirely.
Choices Moving Forward
The Japanese government is opening up debate on its longer term energy mix to the public by presenting three long-term energy policy options, all of which still include nuclear.
In a press event, the government said it would select one of the following three options in August, when it officially shifts from its long time goal of supplying at least 50% of the country's energy from nuclear by 2030.
Japan's government now sees nuclear as providing zero to 20-25% by 2030, down from about 30% at its peak before the meltdown.
Here are the options: the chart uses 2011 as a benchmark.
1990 CO2e Reduction
"All of the three options are compliant to the goals we now have – lower reliance on nuclear power, lower reliance on fossil fuels and lower carbon dioxide emissions," says Motohisa Furukawa, Japan's national strategy minister. "We're presenting these scenarios as a springboard for the discussion."
A group of cabinet ministers came up with the optioins based on recommendations from advisory panels of experts, reports CleanBiz Asia. 11 hearings will be held along with an opinion poll in August, in addition to comments via email and mail.
Interesting that the goverment doesn't present an option to get the majority of energy from renewables.
In a draft of Japan's growth strategy obtained by Reuters, the government says it wants to create a $628 billion clean energy market by 2020 through deregulation and subsidies to promote development of renewable energy and low-emission cars.