January 2, 08
Japan Plans to have Solar Panels in 30% of Houses

The government will aim for 30 percent of all households to have solar panels installed by 2030 as part of its efforts to fight global warming, officials said.

Under the target, the number of solar-powered households would increase to 14 million from the current 400,000, and the capacity of such generation would expand 30-fold from the current 1.3 million kilowatts, the officials said.

The target will be incorporated into a program for innovative technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions to be announced in July at the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, they said.

In a bid to develop new, low-cost solar panels so ordinary households can install them, the government plans to set up a research institution in fiscal 2008, and is seeking ¥2 billion for the project in the fiscal 2008 budget, they said.

A standard panel for 3.7 kw of solar power would produce enough energy for a family of four, but existing equipment for home use is priced as high as ¥2 million and a price reduction, including generation cost, is now a major challenge, the officials said.

Although Sharp Corp. and other Japanese manufacturers produce about half the world output of solar power equipment, their products are mostly for overseas markets. Generation in Japan, including by businesses, totaled 1.71 million kw in 2006, much less than that of No. 1 Germany.

The new panels would have several times higher energy efficiency and reduce the generating cost from the current ¥46 per kw to ¥7 by 2030, which is almost the same level as the cost of thermal generation, the officials said.