OSAKA--With the renewable energy field expanding worldwide, South Korean solar power companies are eager to get a foothold in the Japanese market.
A major catalyst for the move was the July 1 start of a feed-in tariff system for renewable energy sources.
On July 11, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) organized a business fair in Osaka where South Korean companies that manufacture energy conservation and environmental products displayed and explained their products.
The business fair was first organized last year by KOTRA. Last year's fair focused on energy conservation products, such as light-emitting diode bulbs. This year, 62 companies took part, including those that manufacture solar cell products and parts, as well as storage batteries.
According to the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association, the installation of solar cells this fiscal year is expected to be close to double that of last fiscal year. That would be the equivalent of generating about 2.5 gigawatts of electricity.
Although South Korean companies have fallen behind their Chinese rivals in the production volume of solar cells, they are apparently seeking to greatly increase their international competitiveness by entering the Japanese market, which is expected to rapidly expand with the introduction of the feed-in tariff system.
"By using our large panels, the time needed to install the cells can be reduced and savings are also possible in parts and materials," said Kim Je-seok, an executive with Topsun Co., a solar cell manufacturer.
Because of megawatt-scale solar panel construction plans in Japan, it is an obvious target for the company. By entering into a cooperative relationship with an Osaka company, Topsun is seeking to sell the equivalent of 5 megawatts of panels in Japan in the current fiscal year.
Another South Korean company that participated in the Osaka business fair was Youil Ensys Co., which has developed a tracking system in which solar panels change direction in line with the sun's movement.
"Because our product line is still a fairly new one in Japan, we want to determine the level of demand that may exist," said Lee Sang-hun, a company executive.
KOTRA officials feel that South Korean companies have the opportunity to establish a foothold in the Japanese market because the quality of the products approach the high level of Japanese products and the prices are cheaper. Geographic proximity also means products can be delivered overnight.
Chun Byung-suk, director-general of the KOTRA Korea Business Center Osaka, said: "The feed-in tariff system is a major opportunity for South Korea. We also want to establish a network with major Japanese manufacturers and trading companies."
Opinion was split among officials of Japanese companies who visited the business fair.
One official said: "There is no difference in quality with Japanese companies. The products would be attractive if the prices are cheap."
However, another official said, "Solar cells require reliability over the long term, so we feel some reluctance to immediately decide to use South Korean products."
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