There is a huge bottleneck now of potential solar PV projects in Hokkaido, far more than the demand at the local electric utility, Hokkaido Electric. As of March end, 2013, Hokkaido Electric had authorized interconnection for 400MWp of large scale solar PV projects, against applications of 1.56GW peak.
Thus, in late April, 2013, METI issued a request for public comments on a suggested modification to the curtailment rules that would, initially at least, affect only Hokkaido and would permit greater flexibility in curtailment, in order to make it possible for the utility to accommodate additional projects. We hope that the resulting rules will encourage diversity in project design, rather than making Hokkaido projects uneconomic and unfinanceable.
As an additional step, METI announced a 20 billion yen ($200 million) subsidy for Hokkaido Electric to implement a massive storage battery. The battery project will include 60MWh of electricity storage.
The kind of investments needed to transform the electric system in Japan will not be feasible using such one-off subsidies. Nor will they be feasible if just added as a burden on the existing utilities without a real unbundling of generation, transmission and distribution.