TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese small solar panel owners - householders and small businesses - sold 50 percent more power to utilities last year than in 2010, Reuters calculations based on an official data showed on Wednesday.
Japan is overhauling its energy policy after the Fukushima crisis shattered public confidence in the safety of atomic power, and is set to introduce a new subsidy scheme which covers a wider range of renewable energy power developers to support the budding market for domestically produced power.
Owners sold a total 2,150 gigawatt hours to power utilities last year, helped by the government scheme.
The data showed Japan's 10 regional power companies spent a total 96 billion yen ($1.2 billion) for surplus solar power from house owners and small businesses last year via a feed-in tariff scheme, which requires them to buy such power.
Last year's purchase volume is equivalent to 0.24 percent of sales from the power companies of some 884,000 gigawatt hours a year on average in the three years to March 2011.
In calendar 2010, power companies bought 1,400 gigawatt hours of such surplus solar power via the same scheme.
When a full-fledged scheme applying any electricity from solar, wind, small hydro, biomass and geothermal power plants is launched in July, the existing one will remain but cover surplus power from solar panel owners of up to 10 kilowatts only
Currently, regional power firms pay 48 yen per kilowatt hour for surplus electricity from solar panel owners of less than 10 kilowatts and 24 yen for surplus power from owners of 10 to 500 kilowatts, and allowed to add on the extra costs to all users in the same region evenly.
The pricing for the new scheme has not yet been discussed as parliament failed to appoint a panel of experts to decide the scheme's details last year. ($1 = 77.7100 Japanese yen)
(Reporting by Risa Maeda, editing by William Hardy)