Okinawa Electric Power and Shikoku Electric Power have followed Kyushu Electric Power in temporarily halting grid-access applications for renewables projects, in the latest sign that Japan’s utilities are struggling to integrate solar and wind into their strained networks.
Shikoku Electric — whose service area spans Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands — will stop responding to new applications for grid access this week, according to an online statement.
Okinawa Electric Power also said in an online statement today that it would consider ways to slow the flow of renewable-generated electricity into its grid network in Okinawa, the tiny archipelago that lies to the south of Japan’s four main islands.
And Tohoku Electric Power, which manages electricity supplies on the northern end of the main island of Honshu, said late last week that it may stop reviewing applications for grid access from solar and wind developers.
Last week, Kyushu Electric — which is responsible for managing the grid on the southwestern island of Kyushu — said it would temporarily stop reviewing grid-access applications from developers of solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and biomass projects until it can assess how much more capacity it can accept.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) told Recharge earlier this week that Kyushu Electric may continue to suspend grid access until the Japanese government reviews its feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme in early 2015.
Japan now 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 provides a FIT of ¥22/kWh for onshore wind farms and ¥36/kWh for offshore projects.
The Kyushu suspension raises questions about whether roughly 5.4GW of government-approved renewable-energy projects will be developed on the island, which is known for its abundant solar and geothermal resources.
Kyushu — Japan's third biggest island — is home to two of Japan's largest solar plants. Marubeni's 82MW (DC) project in Oita prefecture and Kyocera’s 70MW array in Kagoshima prefecture began pumping electricity into the island's grid this past spring.
In June, Kyocera also said it is working with German PV developer Photovolt Development and several other partners to develop 430MW of PV on the isolated island of Ukujima in Nagasaki prefecture from fiscal 2016.
The Kyoto-based group and its partners have not yet secured grid-access approval for the plan, and they will need to build a 60-kilometre undersea transmission line to connect the project to the Kyushu grid.
But a Kyocera spokesperson told Recharge last week that the company is "carrying out negotiations with Kyushu Electric over the long term."