Japan’s Innovative Approach to Rooftop Solar: The “Do it Ourselves” Model
Japan’s commitment to renewable energy, particularly solar, has witnessed significant growth, especially post the tragic 2011 events that shook the nation. A community-driven model, known as the “Do it Ourselves” (DiO), stands as a testament to this commitment, blending civic participation with sustainable energy solutions.
Historical Backdrop: A Renewed Energy Perspective
The cataclysmic Great East Japan Earthquake, followed by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, initiated a profound rethinking of Japan’s energy approach. This period saw a surge in community-centric renewable projects, fostered largely by Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs).
Tama City: Pioneering the DiO Approach
Tama City, with the backing of the Ministry of the Environment, embarked on an ambitious journey to foster community involvement in solar energy. By September 2016, this endeavour culminated in the inception of a start-up named Tama Empower, championing the DiO installation model for rooftop solar.
The DiO model isn’t merely about harnessing solar energy; it’s about instilling a profound sense of community ownership. This model rests on four foundational pillars:
1. Collaborative Participation
- Owners & Tenants: Building proprietors and occupants actively participate in the solar installation process.
- Training & Education: Tama Empower conducts instructional sessions, ensuring participants have a comprehensive understanding of the solar PV equipment they’re about to install.
2. Strategic Cost Management
Given Japan’s traditionally high solar installation costs, DiO took the innovative step of dissecting the installation process. This approach facilitated significant cost reductions:
- Layperson’s Role: Tasks that don’t necessitate specialized knowledge.
- Trained Individuals’ Role: Activities that require individuals trained by seasoned professionals.
- Professionals’ Role: Tasks exclusively within the domain of industry experts.
3. Precision in Equipment Selection
The solar PV equipment under the DiO model is scrupulously chosen. The dual criteria of durability and simplicity ensure the equipment is both long-lasting and amenable to community-led installations.
4. Institutionalized Maintenance & Support
Recognizing the importance of longevity, the DiO model provides robust operation and maintenance (O&M) support. This is achieved through strategic alliances with expert construction builders and electrical engineers.
Japan’s DiO model exemplifies the power of community in transforming energy landscapes. By marrying grassroots participation with technological innovation, Japan is not only harnessing solar energy but also fostering a deep-seated sense of community ownership and environmental responsibility.