BEIJING, May 9 (UPI) -- Now that Japan has no nuclear power for the first time in more than 40 years, Chinese solar producers are eyeing the world's third-largest economy for new business opportunities.
Even before the Tomari nuclear plant in Hokkaido went offline Sunday for mandatory routine maintenance -- the last of Japan's 54 reactors -- at least five Chinese solar panel manufacturers, including Hebei-based Yingli Green Energy, Jiangsu-based Hareon Solar Technology Co. Ltd. and Shanghai-based Chaori Solar Energy Science & Technology Co. Ltd, had set up offices in Japan since the beginning of this year, state-run news agency Xinhua reports.
The cutoff of all nuclear reactors in Japan "will definitely give the Chinese photovoltaic industry a new opportunity," Wang Liusheng, an analyst with China Merchants Securities, told Xinhua.
While China is now the world's largest producer of solar panels, it has faced anti-subsidy and anti-dumping probes from the United States. More than 90 percent of solar panel products made in China are intended for export.
Wang said the Japanese government is expected to adopt an electricity consumption subsidy policy this year, a step he says would make Japan "a very attractive market" for solar.
Before the disaster at the Fukushima plant in 2011, nuclear power provided one-third of Japan's electricity and the government's basic energy plan called for nuclear power to account for 53 percent of all electricity generated in the country by 2030.
But the Fukushima disaster marked "a turning point for Japan, and a huge opportunity for it to move towards the sustainable energy future its people demand," Greenpeace said in its advanced energy revolution report.
"With an abundance of renewable energy resources and top-class technology, Japan can easily become a renewable energy leader, while simultaneously ending its reliance on risky and expensive nuclear technology."
Greenpeace called for Japan's solar power and wind energy generation to increase from the current level of 3,500 megawatts to 47,200 megawatts by 2015.
Last year Japan ranked fifth in worldwide installed photovoltaic panel module capacity, accounting for about 5 percent of the world's 24-gigawatt solar power installed capacity, says IMS Research.
Tetsunari Lida, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Japan, says the country's ratio of renewable energies, such as solar, wind and geothermal power, should be tripled from the current level of 10 percent to at least 30 percent of total electricity supply by 2030.
Lida, one of 25 members on a government panel drafting Japan's medium- to long-term energy strategy expected to be released this summer, has called for all nuclear power generation to be completely phased out by that year.