December 18, 2014 / 9:52 AM / 4 years ago

Japan to revise scheme to deal with rush of solar power

TOKYO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Japan’s trade ministry said on Thursday it plans to change a feed-in-tariff scheme by making it possible for utilities to limit renewable power output more flexibly while trying to lower guaranteed payments to providers of such power.

The changes follow a rush of applications for solar projects since the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis in 2011.

A scheme put in place after Fukushima meltdowns triggered by an earthquake and tsunami requires utilities to buy electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar or geothermal, at a guaranteed rate for a set period.

Initial rates were among the highest in the world.

The change is being made to deal with the onslaught of solar power projects whose applications to connect to the power grid have far exceeded the utilities’ acceptable capacity to take the unstable renewable energy supplies.

The government hopes to bring on as much renewable power as possible but at the same time to adjust the total output of unstable renewable energy so as not to threaten overall grid stability.

Five of the 10 regional utilities have placed limits on their cleaner energy intake because of network limitations, but some of them said on Thursday they were considering resuming procedures to accept new projects in light of the new rules.

Following is the summary of the revisions, most of which are to come into force in mid-January.

* Operators are called upon to limit power output with no compensation for up to 30 days a year. The restriction will be scrapped if applications for connection to the grid exceed the acceptable level.

* Solar and wind power projects that are less than 500 kilowatts (kw) will become subject to new power output restriction rules. Currently, projects that are 500 kw or more are subjected to output restrictions at the request of the utilities when abundant power supplies are available.

* It will become mandatory for operators to install remote control systems to make it possible to adjust power output during certain hours of the day.

* Delay the timing of when guaranteed payment for operators is locked in to when a contract for connecting to the grid is struck, from when the application for a contract is filed. This will take effect from April. (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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