Programme to accelerate dissemination of residential solar thermal systems in Japan: Residential, pumped solar water heating systems are eligible for a rebate of a maximum of 50 % of the investment costs, including installation and more than 6 years of warranty.
The Japanese solar thermal sector profits from “The urgent economic policy package for tomorrow's security and growth”, which was approved by the government last December: Fiscal year 2009 – which lasts until March 2010 - includes a budget of Japanese Yen (JPY) 1.5 billion (EUR 13.2 million) for the support of solar thermal systems. What is so unusual about the incentive programme, which is called “Acceleration programme for the dissemination of residential solar thermal systems”, is that the maximum rebate of 50 % of the investment costs (including installation) is paid to a leasing company, which allows residential clients to profit from reduced leasing fees. The user of a solar thermal system has to pay back 65 % of the investment costs over a period of 10 years before he becomes the owner of the system. The subsidy covers active pumped systems with a collector area of less than 100 m2.
“This incentive scheme was created as a reaction to the somewhat bad reputation that solar thermal system have because of the history of the sector in Japan,” Masao Kabaya, editor of the Japanese magazine Solar Systems explained during a workshop at the Intersolar Europe in Munich, Germany, in June 2010. The editor refers to the period at the beginning of the 1980ies, when, after a phenomenal boom with an installed collector area of 2.6 million m2 in 1980, the Japanese market started decreasing rapidly. As reasons for the slump, Kabaya named the suddenly very low oil price in combination with a strong yen: “Solar hot water systems were no longer competitive.” Consequently, many companies halted their business activities in that sector and no longer granted any after-sales service for the installed systems. Many installations worked poorly or not at all, which created the bad image of solar thermal technology.
The new incentive programme is now thought to reverse this bad reputation. “Immediately after obtaining the budget for this programme, we prepared the procedure and selected leasing companies,” Jiro Hiratsuka, Deputy Director of the Climate Change Policy Division in the Global Environment Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, explains. The names of the selected companies are now published on the ministry’s website. The selected leasing companies then teamed up with Japanese collector manufacturers. Among the leasing companies chosen for the task are JA Mitsui Leasing/JA Zenno, T & D Leasing and Tokyo Gas Credit Service. The names of the selected collector manufacturers are Yazaki Corporation, Osaka Gas, Chofu Seisakusho and Noritz Corp. “In total, we expect 3,000 residential installations rebated with JYP 500,000 each,” explains Hiratsuka.
According to the deputy director, some of the companies have already reached the expected number of subsidized systems: “Customers are still able to apply for a leased system at some of the selected companies until the limited number of systems is reached or the deadlines they set are met”. He is not sure yet, whether there will be further inclusions of incentives in the budgets for fiscal year 2011 and after.