Will Japan become solar market number one?

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Japan’s solar capacities installed in the first quarter of 2013 surged by 270 %. With 1.5 GW new solar power connected to the grid (Q 1/2012: 0.4 GW) plus the high prices of PV systems in Japan, the country has surpassed Germany and become the world’s largest PV market in terms of revenue this year – while China is still set to be number one in installed megawatts in 2013. These are main findings of a new report entitled “The Photovoltaic Market in Japan” published by information and analytics provider IHS Inc.

This extraordinary fast growth of the Japanese market is expected to continue throughout 2013 as demand for solar energy is expected to double, making Japan the world’s largest market for PV installations on a revenue basis. Japan is forecast to install US$ 20 billion worth of PV systems in 2013, up 82 % from US$ 11 billion in 2012. In contrast, the global market is set for tepid 4 % growth. “Japan’s government has introduced a highly attractive feed-in tariff (FIT) to help stimulate solar growth”, said Sam Wilkinson, Solar Research Manager at IHS. “The deceleration in Europe and the implementation of the FIT in Japan are combining to propel the country to the top of the global solar market this year.”

Other than in Japan, installations in Europe have gone down by 34 % in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2012, resulting in a strongly reduced share in global demand (40 % down from 70 % just one year before), and its share is forecast to continue falling throughout 2013.

“The fastest-growing market segment is forecast to be systems larger than 1 MW, which is expected to grow by more than 500 % in 2013”, Wilkinson said. Nevertheless, the Japanese PV market is not an easy one for international companies. A strong preference for Japanese products and strict certification requirements make it difficult for suppliers to gain market shares.

Volker Buddensiek

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