Japan’s central government has introduced new goals and subsidy systems to push alternative energy strategies in the country.

The government aims to introduce a plan to double the purchase price electric power companies must pay for surplus electricity generated by household solar panels from the present JPY24 per kWh to JPY48 during the first ten years of installation.

The ministry also plans to raise its subsidy rate for constructing geothermal power stations from the present 20% to 33% as early as fiscal 2010.

The government aims to double the nation’s electricity-generating capacity by 2020, using new energy sources including biomass, small-scale hydroelectric power generation and geothermal power, to increase capacity three times or more by 2030.

The government’s major focus is on solar power. Advocating the “world’s best sunlight plan,” with the aim of increasing solar panel-derived electricity generation by 20 times by 2020 compared to 2005 levels, the government has introduced a variety of support measures.

About 45,000 households have applied for installation subsidies to install solar panels since the government introduced them in January.

The government’s installation subsidy per household ranges from 210,000 yen to 250,000 yen. Each local government also offers its own subsidies that can be used in combination with the national subsidies.

Additionally, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has introduced a target of tripling or quadrupling the nation’s geothermal power generation capacity from the current 530,000KW by 2030.

Geothermal power is generated by turbines using steam extracted from underground. One of its benefits is stability, as it is unaffected by weather compared with other new energy sources.

Japan’s geothermal energy reserves total an estimated 200 million KW, the equivalent of 15 to 20 large nuclear power plants.

However, no new geothermal power station has been built in the nation, largely due to high construction costs and restrictions on the selection of locations usable for such facilities.