Big in Japan

Japan has rapidly become a major energy storage market, partly due to blistering growth in the country’s rooftop PV segment, with system installations set to reach 100MW this year, according to IHS.

A new Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) subsidy for lithium-ion battery equipment — which covers up to two thirds of the costs of household installations, up to ¥1m ($10,000) — could ratchet up growth even more. Businesses can claim up to ¥100m under the ¥10bn programme.

Japanese electronics groups are positioned to reap the benefits. Sharp is releasing a cloud-connected household battery storage system in July, while Panasonic is competing for residential and utility-scale opportunities with its Smart Energy Storage Systems (SESS) line-up. It is aiming to turn its PV monitoring, energy storage and management business into a ¥4bn annual operation by next year.

Utility-scale battery systems are also seeing significant growth in the country. Last year, METI announced plans to invest up to ¥29.6bn in a 60MWh battery bank in northern Japan. Sumitomo Electric Industries and Hokkaido Electric Power expect to install the vanadium redox flow battery system by next April.

In February, a venture between Nissan Motor and the Sumitomo group started testing the world’s first storage system made from used electric-vehicle (EV) batteries at a 10MW PV plant in Osaka under a Ministry of the Environment programme. Sumitomo tells Recharge that it hopes to eventually sell its EV-battery systems in other countries.

Toshiba, which has just started developing a 40MW lithium-ion battery storage system with Tohoku Electric Power, recently launched a five-year lithium-ion battery demonstration project in Spain with Gas Natural Fenosa and Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.

And conglomerate NEC — which acquired a unit of battery specialist A123 Energy Solutions this year — expects to become a major player in utility-scale energy storage and is predicting that the global utility-scale battery market will be worth $6bn by 2020.

“From 2018, we expect the market for grid-scale systems to pick up,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Ali Izadi-Najafabadi tells Recharge.