JSEC: We Want Gov't to Know Actual Situation of Renewable Energy Producers (Part 1)

2019/06/01 14:40
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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The Japan Sustainable Energy Council (JSEC, Secretariat: Minato-ku, Tokyo), an industry organization of solar power producers, was established Feb 27, 2019. About 150 corporations and individuals supported the formation of the council. Takayuki Higashihara, who is responsible for the development of solar power plants connected to extra-high- and high-voltage transmission lines at Yamasa Co Ltd (Niimi City, Okayama Prefecture), assumed the post of the representative director.

We interviewed Higashihara and asked about the background of the establishment, policies on activities by the council and challenges facing solar power producers.

Powerless appeals of individual companies

Q: Why did you decide to establish an industry organization of solar power producers at this time?

Takayuki Higashihara, representative director of the Japan Sustainable Energy Council (JSEC) (picture: Meiki Shimizu)

Higashihara: In October 2018, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced a new proposal on measures regarding solar power generation projects that remain idle for a long period. According to the proposal, it is possible that a new deadline for operation start is set and the purchase price is changed depending on the progress of each project, which significantly lowered the feasibility of certain projects.

Under the conventional rules set for the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme, the deadline for operation start was set targeting the projects that signed a connection contract on or after August 1, 2016, and the deadline was not set for the projects that concluded a connection contract before that date. Companies that develop solar power plants naturally worked out business development plans considering the conditions set for each project.

Many developers were shocked and upset by METI's proposal and did not know what action they should take. Some of the companies lobbied the responsible government persons via various channels. However, appeals of individual companies tend to be interpreted as "appeals aiming for their own benefits only."

Meanwhile, economic organizations that support the companies that pay a large amount of FIT surcharge pointed out problems with projects that remain idle for a long period at expert meetings, and so forth. We strongly felt that appeals of individual companies are powerless in fighting against these organizations.

Under such circumstances, companies sharing the same sense of impending crisis met three times, gathering opinions of related companies and discussing the measures. We lobbied the Financial Services Agency and the Ministry of Justice, based on the collected opinions, and the Parliamentary Association for Promotion of Renewable Energies formed by LDP members also acted for us.

Consequently, the original suggestion was revised by accepting many of our requests in regard to large projects (projects connected to extra-high-voltage transmission lines) that require a long development period.

JSEC was established by the members that joined the meetings. Yamasa Co Ltd, which I belong to, collected opinions of bidders on the construction work to improve the grids in the Kyushu region when some of the bidders withdrew from the bidding (during the bidding invitation process). Because of the background, I volunteered to act as a peacemaker, thinking that someone has to lead the way.