MEMC says has no firm plans for Japan solar projects

Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:27pm EST

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(Reuters) - MEMC Electronic Materials Inc said on Tuesday it has not firmed up plans to build solar power plants in Japan because the government there has yet to determine a key solar subsidy.

The company's statement appeared to contradict comments by its unit SunEdison, which said earlier in the week that it would build 1,000 megawatts of solar power plants in Japan at a price tag of about $4.6 billion.

The company added that because feed-in tariff rates have not yet been set by the Japanese government, "neither project pricing nor project costs can be known at this time."

A feed-in tariff is a policy mechanism that offers long-term contracts to solar energy producers at above-market prices, reflecting the higher cost of solar generation.

"While SunEdison remains interested in this market, the company's plans in Japan are not yet firm," MEMC said in a statement.

Renewable energy sources have found more favor in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear crisis and a new scheme will require

utilities from July to buy all electricity output from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small-sized hydro power plants at preset rates for up to 20 years.

A SunEdison official in Osaka had said the company would seek investors to share in the cost of the 350 billion yen project which will take around five years, but declined to comment further on financial terms.

Japan's solar plants are currently estimated to have a combined capacity of around 4,000 MW.

(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori in Tokyo and Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Mark Porter)

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