Special Feature: Original Article Socio-technological transitions

Sustainability Science

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 185-197

First online:

Policy innovation for technology diffusion: a case-study of Japanese renewable energy public support programs

  • Aki SuwaAffiliated withUnited Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies Email author 
  • , Joni JupestaAffiliated withUnited Nations University Institute of Advanced StudiesNational Graduate Institute for Policy Studies

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Due to local scarcity of fossil fuel reserves, deployment of renewable energy has been on the Japanese government energy policy agenda for decades. While a significant amount of government budget was being allocated to renewables Research and Development, in contrast very little attention was paid to public support for renewable energy deployment. Against this background, in 2003, the Japanese government enacted legislation based on the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) scheme, which requires electricity retailers to supply a certain amount of electricity from renewable sources to grid consumers. The RPS legislation had been expected to ensure market efficiency, as well as bringing a steady increase in renewable capacity. Later, in 2009, the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme was introduced to let electricity utilities purchase electricity generated from renewable energy sources with regulated prices. This paper aims to use the choice of renewable policy as a case-study to understand barriers for policy transfer and innovation, mainly through comparative studies between RPS and FIT in Japan. The result of this study shows that, in Japan, most policy-makers face the ‘lock-in’ of existing technology, which frustrates the deployment of renewable energy. For this reason, there is reluctance to allow experimentation that could promote a shift to other energy sources. In order to achieve the rapid change towards green industry, innovation policy needs to be implemented through effective and efficient methods, such as a carbon tax for fossil fuels; enlargement of renewable energy deployment to sources such as wind, geothermal and solar; and conducting further studies toward public preference and willingness to pay for the new clean energy sources.


Policy innovation Renewable energy Feed-in tariff Renewable portfolio standard ‘Lock in’ technology