Through a joint venture with Suntech, Meteocontrol recently made its entry into the Japanese market. To find out more about their vision, approach and experiences we spoke to Mr. Yoshitaka Santoki, Representative Director at meteocontrol Japan Corporation.


1. meteocontrol recently announced its entry into the Japanese PV market, through a JV with Suntech. What is the rationale behind this cooperation?

Suntech Power CO., Ltd. is one of the world’s largest solar battery producer, and Suntech Power Japan Corporation is a company, which is based on a mother company called MSK, the producer of solar battery founded in 1967 has been providing not only solar cell modules, but also Solar power systems.

We have prepared the entry of meteocontrol into Japanese Market by utilizing deep and a wide range of technical knowledge and extensive experience of quality correspondence to the market, which Suntech Power Japan already has.
Both meteocontrol and Suntech Power are the members of SFCE group, which is listed on Hong Kong, and the solution provider of renewable energy. 
We think that Suntech Power Japan is one of the user of meteocontrol products, and is an important partner as the advisor for improvement in quality and technical services in such difficult Japanese market environment in order for meteocontrol, A worldwide leading company of remote monitoring systems to widespread use in Japanese market. 

2. What strategic importance does Japan represent for meteocontrol? Since the market is already up to speed, is it still in time to enter the market now, in order to be successful?

After “Revised FIT” enforced in April, 2017 in Japan, O&M is now mandatory, thus IPP do maintenance has also became mandatory.  There is also the influence, the O&M market expansion is expected as a result of recognition of more importance of O&M.
Furthermore, as I see O&M in Japan has a strong tendency of focusing more to “ maintenance “ rather “operation”, I think that promoting efficiency of “ operation “ is important in order to highly operate photovoltaic generation business.

O&M from now on, stably operating know-how of skilled engineers by using advanced IT effectively, and reducing labor cost is required by systematic operation at the site.
Monitoring system from now on, not only show the measured data and the failure information of electronic devices in a conventional manner, evaluate and analyze measured data under suitable condition of each power plants, and the system automatically verifies how efficiently power plants are operating is important. 

Especially for IPP, monitoring system as a roll of “Asset tracking tool “, which verifies efficient operation of power plant is extremely important, and meteocontrol is the remote monitoring system that enables to do so.

3. What services will meteocontrol provide on the Japanese market and how would you describe your approach? What is the target audience for your services?

The strength of meteocontrol is evaluation and analysis of measured data.  From long time experience of ongoing maintenance and management of photovoltaic generation, 
meteocontrol developed the own system, what to index and how to evaluate from enormous data, thus it allows automatic verification on portal.
And, it positively support asset management of IPP, for example, from measured amount of solar radiation from irradiance sensor automatically calculate PR at real time, which evaluate the situation of power generation “ now “ and can be shown on portal as the standard function. These services able the customer to use our portal without the hardware if automatic measured data transfer from other company’s system to our server is possible.  
On the other hand, meteocontrol not only monitoring system and portal, but lines up own sensors such as irradiance and temperature to measure various weather data can propose the most suitable monitoring system to the customer’s need.

Our main target is IPP and O&M Company, but meteocontrol’s monitoring system corresponding to many languages suites especially for the foreign firms, which are highly interested in Asset management. 

4. meteocontrol is an experienced service provider in many markets globally. Based on this experience, what would you say are the most challenging characteristics you find in the Japanese market?

I think that is to raise awareness of the importance of Asset management.
I recognize cases EPC generally chose the monitoring systems in Japan, and they provide the monitoring systems to IPP, which they are accustomed to design and construct, but properly speaking, I think it is preferable that the user as IPP and O&M Company positively chose the monitoring system on their own.
It is difficult to evaluate photovoltaic power plant by just measuring power generation and verifying system failure. I think calculation of power generation amount against solar radiation amount is desirable, which automatically calculate as PR on the monitoring system is adequate to evaluate as the Asset.
If the actual users, IPP and O&M Company understand the differences of each monitoring system, and can chose on their own, the interest to the functions of the system will grow, and I think that photovoltaic generation will be used more efficiently by using the system effectively.

5. What is, in your view, the most important trend that can be seen at the moment in the Japanese solar market? What are your main expectations for Japan for the coming 5 years?

It is seen as FIT rate is lowered and new development of photovoltaic plant will be reduced in Japan, however, FIT rate is reduced but implementation cost is also reduced, I recognize IRR hasn’t much changed comparing to FIT start time.
Furthermore, I think that solar market is the market, which demand can be expected in Japan because the policy of Japan is stable and FIT is paid without the delay. 
Looking at the world, Japan still can positively invest to solar market, and I’m expecting more activation of Solar market and continues new development of photovoltaic plant.