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2013年9月11日 (水)

再生エネ発電 買い取り制の不備を見直せ

The Yomiuri Shimbun September 10, 2013
Government should pull the plug on laggards in feed-in tariff system
再生エネ発電 買い取り制の不備を見直せ(9月8日付・読売社説)

Among business operators awarded licenses to generate electricity through solar power or other renewable energy sources and to sell it to power companies under the so-called feed-in tariff system, a surprisingly large number have yet to flick the “on” switch.

Do these operators, who obtained the right to sell electricity at high, fixed rates, intend to start generating electricity only after solar panel prices fall further? The cost of purchasing renewable energy from these operators will be added to electricity charges set by power utilities. Consumers will not accept that they will eventually have to bear this additional financial burden.

The government must firmly deal with this situation by, for instance, canceling licenses issued to operators who are needlessly delaying their generation of electricity.

The feed-in tariff system started in July 2012. According to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, renewable power-generating facilities approved by the end of May this year had a total capacity of 22.4 million kilowatts. However, these facilities were only generating about 3 million kilowatts.

Particularly conspicuous is the fact that more than 90 percent of mega solar plants, which account for the lion’s share of facilities approved under the system, have not yet started generating power.

Solar power generation should have the advantage of requiring less time to get from the planning stage to actual generation, compared with the time needed for wind power or geothermal power generation. Even after taking into account such circumstances as the supply shortage of solar panels and the difficulty some operators have in obtaining them, solar power projects have been lagging.

The purchase price for electricity generated by solar energy was lowered in April to about ¥38 per kilowatt-hour from the initially set ¥42. Nonetheless, it remains nearly double the rate for wind power.

Tighter screening needed

Shortly before this purchase price was lowered, there was a rush of applications to establish solar power generation facilities. Some applicants, in a bid to acquire a license to sell electricity at high rates, apparently submitted documents despite having no clear plan for acquiring land or purchasing equipment needed for their facility.

To reduce “fake applications” that are devoid of substance, the government should set the purchase price not at the time when the license is given, as is currently done, but at the time when power generation actually starts.

There are fears that even some of these shoddy projects could be approved under the present screening of application documents. We think it is essential to more strictly check applications by, for instance, making unannounced inspections of the construction sites and equipment suppliers.

The ministry has indicated it plans to inspect solar power generation projects that have been certified but whose construction has not yet started. There are reportedly some despicable cases in which licensed operators have sold their renewable energy generation projects to others as “rights.” We hope the ministry gets to the bottom of this matter.

Setting the purchase price of electricity generated by solar power too high in the first place has caused various problems.

Costs for installing solar panels have fallen by as much as 40 percent since 2009. To prevent electricity charges from soaring, the government needs to flexibly lower the purchase prices of renewable energy, in line with the costs for generating such energy.

Although expectations for renewable energy are high, the current feed-in tariff system is riddled with flaws. The system should be changed into a more reasonable one that gives greater consideration to the burdens it places on consumers.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 8, 2013)
(2013年9月8日01時49分  読売新聞)


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