Japan has just passed 10 GW of installed solar capacity to join an exclusive club of 5 countries that can boast that amount: Germany, Italy, China and America. Japan joins two other countries in passing that milestone this year: China and the USA.
Japan’s growth puts it on the way to retake the solar crown. Japan has had a robust solar subsidy program since 1994, and held the largest installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity up until it was overtaken by Germany in 2005.
A huge motivating factor for the recent uptick of solar in Japan was the Fukushima nuclear plant’s breakdown, and the aversion to atomic energy in its wake. In July 2012, the Japanese government launched a Feed in Tariff (FiT) program similar to the German program, in no small part to wean the country off nuclear power. This program has been a wild success – Japanese solar grew 270% in Q1 2013, 150% above projections.
With the rapid success of feed-in-tariffs in countries like Germany and Japan, one must wonder at the certainties of global energy projections from agencies like the International Energy Agency (IEA). Currently, IEA projects renewables will make up 35% of global energy output by 2035. Yet one must harken back to their 1995 projection that renewables would make up just 2% of energy output by 2010, an underestimation considering that renewables actually made up around 20% of 2010 energy production. As governments increasingly see renewables as an attractive option in the face of a warming planet and nuclear disasters, new policy will continue to incentivize renewable growth above what market predictions alone can forecast. We may indeed be headed towards what HSBC, Citi, Standard and Poor’s, and the Carbon Tracker Initiative have termed the ‘Carbon Bubble,’ where fossil fuel investments will fail to see a return on investments as governments attempt to keep the carbon reserves in the ground.