In effort to reduce Japan's reliance on nuclear energy, the Government in 2012 created a feed-in tariff for solar and other renewable energy power sources.
The rate given for the feed-in tariff is above market rates and is about US$525 per kWh for a system size less than 10kW.
Japan was the world's 2nd largest market for solar power in 2013, adding a record 6.9 GW of capacity. In 2013 china had installed 11.3 GW of solar pv. A gigawatt is about the size of a nuclear power plant.
But as no surprise, although the feed-in tariff is required by law, many of Japans regional utilities have stopped green electricity purchases.
Power utilities have used the clause in the Law that exempts them from the obligation to buy green electricity if the purchase of such power "poses a danger to stable supply of electricity."
Understandably it is uncertain when solar power and wind power will be supplied to the grid, but still renewable energy only makes up 2.2% of total power generation, I wouldn't think intermittent supply would be that much of a problem.
But as most people in the renewable energy industry knows, electricity lines companies are opposed to green energy because it affects their profit margin and they will do or say anything to make it go away.
Regardless, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have realised they must solve this complaint and has recognised battery storage as their solution. In 2013 they paid $200 million to install the world's largest battery storage center in Hokkaido, which will be operating by March 2015. And in March 2014 they launched a subsidy program, which will pay renewable energy system owners up to two thirds of their purchase price for a battery storage system.
Battery storage is still very expensive and I couldn't help but think they might have some better options. We now have controller systems that work to use all the green energy possible in the home or building first before it's exported. The systems available on the market include the SMA's Sunny Home Manager, PowerGenius and Enasolar's Immersun. These systems are far cheaper than battery storage.
The challenges that Japan is experiencing are similar issues that are appearing worldwide. New Zealand can learn a thing or two from Japans experience. New Zealand must realise that we need to keep the utility companies happy before they get up in arms and start lobbying on the other side.
Further reading: Find out more about how Japan is moving forward in the renewable energy space.