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Japan solar farms dim on Huawei as US sounds alarm

Sector is divided as some stick with Chinese company's product

Mount Fuji is seen past a solar power facility. Huawei controls a large share of the Japanese market for power conditioners used for solar panels.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The U.S. call for allies to bar Huawei Technologies communications devices is affecting procurement by Japan's energy sector as some solar farm operators decide to drop the Chinese company's products.

Huawei started producing power conditioners for photovoltaic power plants in 2012 and now holds 22% of the global market and about 10% of the Japanese market for the key device, which converts DC power produced by panels to usable AC power. 

Ten of the 20 solar power companies that responded to a recent Nikkei survey said they used Huawei power conditioners. Of those, two said they would discontinue the use of Huawei products, five said they had not decided, and three said that they would continue using them or had no plans for new facilities. The 20 companies generate about a fifth of Japan's megasolar energy.

"There have been no problems, but given security issues with Huawei products pointed out by the U.S., we have decided not use them just in case," a respondent that decided to drop Huawei said of the Chinese company's power conditioners.

"There is a possibility that the trend of excluding Huawei power conditioners could become widespread, just like its communications devices," another respondent in the discontinue camp explained.

Many other power providers that have not used Huawei power conditioners were not inclined to start. "Banks we borrow from expect us to be cautious when considering" procurement from Huawei, said a representative of Sparx Green Energy & Technology.

At facilities already up and running, no solar operators reported replacing Huawei power conditioners with hardware from the competition.

But the sector remains divided on the issue. Orix electrical generators employ power conditioners from overseas suppliers including Huawei. "We use remote monitoring systems produced by domestic manufacturers, so we believe there are no problems," a company representative said.

NTT Facilities and Marubeni, which both use Huawei equipment, said they have not decided what to do going forward. Suntech Power Japan said it would keep using Huawei power conditioners, citing favorable performance.

U.S. senators have pressed the White House to ban Huawei power conditioners on national security grounds, arguing that the devices leave systems open to cyberattacks.

Huawei Japan dismissed such criticisms.

"To date, we have not been shown any proof supporting security concerns," a representative told Nikkei. "The communications technology conforms to specifications, and we are unable to remotely access any equipment we deliver to clients. Our equipment causes absolutely no harm to any state, organization or individual."

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