Back From Japan, SEPA Execs Say US ‘On the Right Track’

Last month, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) led a group of U.S. utility executives to Japan to take a look at the solar market in the country and learn what they could about how to make the U.S. solar market better.

The group returned from its fact-finding mission with a wealth of new contacts and a refreshed outlook on the solar power market here in the United States, according to SEPA. Based on the observation that Japan appears to have embraced solar at the consumer, manufacturing and national policy levels, many of the participants described their renewed sense that the U.S. is also on the right track, with growing utility integration and an interest in more domestic manufacturing.

Julia Hamm, Executive Director of SEPA who went on the mission commented that while she feels the U.S. is doing a good job, the Japanese have excelled at creating a successful home-grown solar market.

“Ninety percent of what was installed in Japan in 2009 was sourced from Japanese manufacturers,” said Hamm.

In terms of the relative size of the two markets, the growth in the U.S. is expected to outpace Japan in the near future.

“There’s no doubt that the growth of the Japanese solar power market is helped by the policy initiatives being advanced by the Japanese government,” said David Rubin, SEPA Chairman and Director of Service Analysis at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. “Growth in the U.S. market is strong, but tends to be driven more by state-specific programs, and less by the type of national program we saw in Japan.”

SEPA is preparing a report summarizing the full findings of the mission.  Lessons learned from the Japan Fact Finding Mission will also be shared at the Solar Power International Conference.


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