The Smart Grid Expo in Japan featured a hectic showground, as numerous visitors jostled around looking for various PV system products, which is quite different from the calmer atmosphere of the PV EXPO which displayed mainly PV materials such as PV modules and slurry, as well as PV racking systems, testing/maintenance tools, and inverters. The contrast underscores the Japanese market’s rapid shift towards energy integration solutions.
According to Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), the organization has aimed to boost the share of renewable energy in power supply to 22-24% by 2030, of which PV power will play a key role. Japanese PV power operators, however, are faced with brand new market conditions, as the Japanese government has continuously cut FiT (feed-in tariff) rates and embraced open bidding for large-scale PV power station projects with 2 MW or larger capacity in order to lower costs.
The "2019 issue" and outlook of Japan's PV power industry
The Smart Grid Expo has highlighted the general transition of the Japanese PV power market, whose demands have been on the wane. EnergyTrend predicts that the country’s grid-connection capacity will drop to below 6 GW in 2018, which is similar to the level prior to 2012, prompting major Japanese operators such as Panasonic, Sharp, and Kyocera to shut down their domestic plants as the numbers of business closures in the field hits a new high. Japanese PV power station operators are now faced with a brand new market environment, as PV power rates are approaching regular rates after FiT cuts and the Japanese power market has become increasingly mature following liberalization of power transaction in April 2016. PV power as “a component of grid network” will therefore become a theme in the development of the Japanese PV power industry this year.
EnergyTrend predicts that the Japanese market will enter a stabilization stage in 2019, when demands for imported modules will become higher, as evidenced by the frequent inquiries at the booths of PV module suppliers during the show. Major considerations of Japanese buyers will include brand status, efficiency performance, price, after-sales service, and compatibility with power system.
A major highlight of the exhibition this year was integrated solutions, which the exhibitors stressed would be important for the "effective utilization of power output." Meanwhile, with the "2019 issue" around the corner, exhibitors displayed HEMS, smart home, and integration of AI and IoT in "energy creation, energy conservation, and energy storage," as well as interactive linkage with grid, conforming to the demand-response mechanism of smart grid.
Panasonic and Sharp both displayed HEMS integrating AI and IoT functions, as well as high-performance solar panels coupled with ESS program, as a solution to the "2019 issue." Panasonic stressed the power-generation performance of its HIT module under high temperature, plus display of integrated program incorporating ENE Farm. Sharp rolled out several frames with special specifications for various environments, underscoring its foray into the system sector.
Omron and Delta from Taiwan also offered solution for the "2019 issue," showcasing inverter and storage system, coupled with monitoring, power control, and O&M programs.
Another major exhibition item was "EV as ESS," noticeably ENEDiA of Mitsubishi, as well as related products of Richo and Takaoka Toko, which facilitate effective utilization of PV power output. Mitsubishi noted that its ENEDiA possesses basic IoT function, noting that it will develop in the direction integrating AI and IoT in the future.