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Japan Curbs Renewable Energy

Ben McLannahan, Financial Times

Two Japanese utilities, responsible for about a fifth of the nation’s power, say they have had their fill of renewable energy, in a move that could add pressure on community leaders to allow idled nuclear reactors back on line.

Japan energy consumption

Since the 2011 tsunami led to the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan has invested heavily in renewables and in solar power in particular. If all the solar projects that Japan has licensed to date came to fruition, it would have total capacity of 68 gigawatts – almost twice that of Germany, the world’s biggest user of solar energy.

But Japan’s utilities have been pushing back, imposing restrictions in certain areas on the grounds that taking on too much solar – where output varies according to weather – could risk instability in the electricity supply.

However, Kyushu Electric Power has gone further, saying it would stop processing new applications across its entire service region for an indefinite period from October, while Tohoku Electric has outlined a similar strategy.

Analysts said the decisions would put a brake on solar project approvals, as Japan’s other regional power monopolies review the level of clean energy they can handle.

Meanwhile, signs that utilities have become saturated with solar could encourage local governments to switch nuclear reactors back on.

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