Japan

Japan

Japan waits for long term policy

Japan's wind energy capacity doubled to around 300 MW -- either on-line or about to go on-line -- by the end of 2001, confirming a four year growth pattern. But market players are unsure if the trend is set to continue, with estimates for new capacity this year ranging from 150 MW up to 300 MW.

Although government subsidies have been granted for all projects selected for development under last year's utility tenders, not all are likely to be finished this year. Furthermore, new tenders from Japan's nine utility companies have yet to be issued for this year and wind developers can only guess on their size. The northern Hokkaido Electric Power Co is due to call for bids for new projects this year after a three year pause while it processed applications. Hokkaido has about 150 MW of Japan's installed wind energy capacity.

There is also a trend towards bigger wind farms of 10-30 MW and bigger turbines with rated capacities of 1.5-2 MW. Just a few years ago most wind projects were stand alone turbines in the range of 600-750 kW. The main wind turbine suppliers in Japan are Vestas and NEG Micon of Denmark and Dutch Lagerwey, each of which have an estimated 20-25% share of the market so far.

Japan seems no closer to getting a firm renewables policy to release it from the stop-go of utility controlled tenders. The government is supposed to submit a proposal on alternative energy during this parliamentary session. The proposal, however, is caught in a three way tug-o-war between the trade and industry ministry, the environment ministry, and various interest groups. The wind industry is hoping for a long term policy instead of the one year schedules that government and utilities are working with, making it difficult to plan ahead.

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