The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and utility partners have returned from a fact-finding mission to Japan. During the trip, SEPA observed that Japan appears to have embraced solar at the consumer, manufacturing and national policy levels.
Many of the participants described their renewed sense that the U.S. is also on the right track, with growing utility integration and an interest in more domestic manufacturing, SEPA notes.
‘Overall, the Japanese market today is about on par with the U.S. market in terms of solar capacity,’ says Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA, who led the delegation. ‘But the Japanese have excelled at using their own home-grown green technology. Ninety percent of what was installed in Japan in 2009 was sourced from Japanese manufacturers.’
‘There's no doubt that the growth of the Japanese solar power market is helped by the policy initiatives being advanced by the Japanese government,’ adds David Rubin, chairman of SEPA and director of service analysis at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. ‘Growth in the U.S. market is strong, but it tends to be driven more by state-specific programs, and less by the type of national program we saw in Japan.’
In terms of the relative size of the two markets, the growth in the U.S. is expected to outpace Japan in the near future.
‘The U.S. is likely to be among the largest solar markets in the world in the next two to three years,’ Hamm predicts. ‘In fact, one interesting note from our trip is how eager the Japanese manufacturers are to do business here and to form relations with U.S. utilities.’
SOURCE: Solar Electric Power Association