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Japan stokes renewable energy plan via The Globe and Mail

First it was Europe and then it was China, but as the world absorbs the impact of Tokyo’s decision to phase out nuclear power over the next three decades, some are starting to ask whether the next big centre of renewable energy growth will be Japan.

“It is absolutely possible,” says Jim Long of Greentech Capital Advisors, a global adviser on renewable energy, headquartered in New York.

“This could provide a significant stimulus for the development of a major renewable energy market in Japan, and underpin the global ambitions of a number of large Japanese industrial companies in the clean energy sector.”

Japan certainly does not lack green energy ambition.

In line with last month’s decision, the country has plans that envisage the investment of ¥38-trillion ($483-billion U.S.) in non-hydroelectric renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, over the next two decades, plus an extra ¥84-trillion in energy-efficient technology.

This will come on top of the introduction in July of some of the world’s most generous low-carbon energy subsidies, which have already spurred an estimated $2-billion of investment.

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Japan has several substantial wind turbine makers, such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Japan Steel Works Ltd. and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., but none of them were among the 10 biggest wind companies by market share last year.

Among its solar cell makers, only two – Sharp Corp. and Kyocera Corp. – were on a list of the world’s 20 biggest by production in 2011, according to a report last month by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

Both companies are solar pioneers (Sharp started commercial solar production in 1963) but today’s undisputed solar power giant is China, where newcomers such as Suntech Power Holdings Co. Ltd., Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd., and Trina Solar dominate the top 20 global players.

China’s entry into the wind turbine market has been equally remarkable. Six years ago, not a single Chinese turbine maker was among the top 10 manufacturers. Last year there were four: Goldwind Science and Technology Co. Ltd., Sinovel Wind Group Co., United Power Technology Co. and Ming Yang Wind Power Group Ltd. – according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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