Japan is expected to generate a large volume of PV module waste in the coming decades. The country is projected to become the third largest contributor to PV waste in 2030 after China and the United States. How is Japan responding to the looming waste crisis? In this post, we will examine Japan’s regulatory framework and government-led initiatives to address PV waste challenges.
Are there any PV-specific waste regulations in Japan?
- Japan currently does not have PV-specific waste regulations.
- In Japan, end-of-life (EOL) PV modules must be treated under the Waste Management and Public Cleaning Act (the “Waste Management Act”). According to the Waste Management Act, EOL PV modules are, in principle, classified as industrial waste. However, in cases where waste modules are generated directly from general households without business activities, say, dismantling works, EOL PV modules may be treated as general waste. Household consumers are advised to contact local municipalities to determine whether waste modules must be treated as general waste.
Are there any government-led initiatives to mitigate future PV waste issues?
In response to the rapid increase in solar installations since Japan’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme began in 2012, various efforts have been made to promote sustainable end-of-life management of PV modules.
- In 2015, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE), in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), published a report and developed a roadmap to create a scheme for dismantling, transportation, reuse, recycling and proper treatment of end-of-life renewable energy systems, including PV systems. As part of the roadmap, MOE, in 2016, published guidelines to facilitate proper end-of-life management, including recycling, of PV systems; the second edition of the guidelines was published in 2018.
- In May 2021, MOE published guidelines to promote the proper reuse of PV modules.
- The Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), an affiliated agency of METI, released guidelines on business planning for the solar energy industry, which also covers the proper dismantlement and treatment, including reuse and recycling, of PV modules. The first edition was issued in March 2017 and was most recently updated in April 2022.
- In April 2022, the Act on Special Measures Concerning Procurement of Electricity from Renewable Energy Sources by Electricity Utilities was amended and renamed the Act on Special Measures Concerning Promotion of Utilization of Electricity from Renewable Energy Sources. As a result, since July 1, 2022, commercial FIT/FIP-certified solar projects larger than 10kW have been required to set aside a decommissioning reserve for solar PV facilities during the last 10 years of a FIT/FIP program. Guidelines on decommissioning reserves were published by ANRE in September 2021 and were revised in April 2022.
In the absence of nationwide PV-specific waste regulation, the immediate effects of non-binding guidelines remain to be seen. Nevertheless, industry-led efforts, as well as public and private partnerships, are also underway. In our next post, we will look at how Japan’s public and private sectors are addressing solar PV waste concerns.
 IRENA and IEA-PVPS, “End-of-Life Management: Solar Photovoltaic Panels,” 2016. Accessed: Jan. 05, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.irena.org/publications/%202016/Jun/End-of-life-management-Solar-Photovoltaic-Panels
 K. Komoto et al., “Status of PV Module Recycling in Selected IEA PVPS Task12 Countries 2022.” Accessed: Feb. 08, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://iea-pvps.org/key-topics/status-of-pv-module-recycling-in-selected-iea-pvps-task12-countries/
 Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan, “Taiyoukou hatsuden setsubi no risaikuru tou no suishin ni muketa gaidorain (dainihan) [Guidelines for Promoting PV System Recycling (The Second Edition)],” 2018. Accessed: Feb. 08, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.env.go.jp/content/900512721.pdf
 Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan, “Taiyoukou hatsudensetsubitou no riyu-su, risaikuru, tekiseishobun ni kansuru houkokusho [Report on Reuse, Recycling and Proper Treatment of End-of-Life Renewable Energy Equipment],” 2015. Accessed: Feb. 10, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.env.go.jp/content/900535822.pdf
 Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan, “Shiyouzumi saiseikanou enerugi-setsubi no kentou gaiyou [Assessment Overview of End-of-Life Renewable Energy Equipment].” https://www.env.go.jp/recycle/recycling/renewable/index.html (accessed Feb. 10, 2023).
 Ministry of the Environment Government of Japan, “Taiyoudenchi mojyuru no tekisetsuna riyu-su sokushin gaidorain [Guidelines for Promoting Proper Reuse of PV Modules],” May 2021. Accessed: Feb. 08, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.env.go.jp/content/900517758.pdf
 Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), “Jigyoukeikakusakutei gaidorain (taiyoukou hatsuden) [Guidelines for Business Planning (PV Energy)].” Accessed: Feb. 09, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/category/saving_and_new/saiene/kaitori/dl/fit_2017/legal/guideline_sun.pdf
 Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), “Haikitou hiyou tsumitate gaidorain [Guidelines for Decommissioning and Other Reserves].” Accessed: Feb. 09, 2023. [Online]. Available: https://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/category/saving_and_new/saiene/kaitori/dl/fit_2017/legal/haiki_hiyou.pdf