Tetsunari Iida just pointed with this tweet to an article at Mainichi Shimbun (in Japanese) reporting on the illegal and corrupt behavior of Tohoku Denryoku, the utility trusted with the monopoly to serve North Eastern Japan.
The article says that Tohoku Denryoku has decided to allow 26 wind power projects to go ahead, with a total of 3.4 GW of capacity.
Update: I’m sorry, I messed up in the translation. That should be 340 MW of capacity.
Apparently, they have not changed their practice of announcing a ceiling for the amount of wind energy they might be inclined to buy and then choose between proposals of wind projects.
This is of course clearly illegal under the new feed-in tariff system. The first thing any feed-in tariff system needs to make sure is that utilities have no influence on who gets to do any projects. They have to be required by law to buy the electricity. They don’t get to choose projects.
For the record, here again is the relevant Article of the Japanese feed-in tariff law, in my translation:
Note: The original Japanese text of Paragraph one is quite unreadable. Like many modern Japanese laws it contains inserts in brackets that are confusing and damaging to clarity. To illustrate (illustrating means explaining by example (example is meant in the usual way, so this insert may be ignored) to the readers) I have just written an example for a sentence containing two inserts nested into each other.
This might be acceptable when writing computer programs. It is not when writing a text you want people to understand.
To deal with this problem, I am just leaving out most of the stuff inserted in my translation. While losing some of the meaning in the process, the gain in clarity by far outweighs that. As far as it is necessary to keep the content, I reject the original nested construction of the sentence and write some normal prose more easily understood by readers instead.
This said, here we go again:
(Duty to accept an offer for special contract)
(1) When a supplier of renewable energy extends an offer regarding renewable energy to an electric utility at the feed-in tariff and for the period specified in the Ordinance of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, the utility must accept it. However, when the content of the offer would be damaging to important interests of the utility or other valid reasons as specified in the Ordinance of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry apply, the utility may refuse the offer.
(2) When it is necessary to assure the smooth conclusion of special contracts, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry may offer the necessary advice and orientation to an electric utility.
(3) When an electric utility refuses to conclude a special contract without a valid reason, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry may recommend to the utility to accept the offer.
(4) When an electric utility after receiving the recommendation of the previous Paragraph without a valid reason fails to take the measures to implement it, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry may order it to take the measures implementing the recommendation.
This Article, while not perfect since it allows for refusing to buy for vague reasons, does contain a sanction mechanism.
Article 4 of the Economic Ministry Ordinance 46 of 18 June gives some more detail on when an utility may refuse buying. For example, if the operator of a wind farm is involved in organized crime, or for smaller scale utilities (not for Tohoku Denryoku) if the expected amount of electricity is too much for them to handle.
No exceptions provided there seem to apply for this practice of Tohoku Denryoku.
Obviously, violating the law in this systematic way is not acceptable. The Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry should “offer the necessary advice” to Tohoku Denryoku.
“Obey the law” would seem to be the advice called for in this case.