Japan utilities reveal plans to resume reviews of grid-access applications

Some of the Japanese utilities that stopped reviewing grid applications for new renewables projects have announced plans to start talking to developers again, as new regulations on access take hold this week.

Kyushu Electric Power and Tohoku Electric Power said in online statements this week that they will start looking at grid-access applications from developers of solar and wind projects.

The two companies — along with Hokkaido Electric Power, Shikoku Electric Power and Okinawa Electric Power — temporarily suspended grid access last autumn on claims that their grid networks have been destabilised by a flood of new solar projects that have been developed since the July 2012 introduction of Japan’s feed-in tariff (FIT) system.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)) responded to the grid-access suspensions by introducing new rules that will give those utilities more freedom to manage and potentially reduce the amount of renewables-generated electricity they accept into their grid networks.

The new regulations will give utilities more freedom to manage electricity output from solar, wind, geothermal and biomass plants. They will be able to reduce the amount of electricity they accept from renewable-energy installations without compensating project owners for up to 30 days per year if supply surpasses demand.

Renewables developers are also now required to install remote control systems so they can adjust output throughout the day.

They will also need to lock in grid-connection contracts to ensure that their projects proceed, rather than simply applying for connection.

METI claims that the new regulations — based on the findings of a committee that was set up to assess the available grid capacity in each utility’s service area — will stabilise the nation’s regional grid networks while facilitating the development of renewable resources such as solar and wind.

Japan offers a FIT rate of ¥32/kWh for commercial solar installations and ¥37/kWh for residential PV plants, or projects under 10kW in size. It also offers a FIT of ¥22/kWh for onshore wind farms and ¥36/kWh for offshore wind projects.

A government committee is now discussing new FIT rates that will come into effect from the start of the next Japanese fiscal year on 1 April.