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Japan plans measures to boost solar cells

  Japan said on Wednesday it aims to lift its global share in solar cell production to over one third from the current 25% by 2020, seeking to regain market share it has lost to foreign rivals.

Solar cell production, a promising alternative clean energy source, has been climbing worldwide and Japan has seen its share whittled down from the first half of the decade, when it produced about half of the world’s solar cells.

The steps are designed to expand the domestic solar cell market to ¥10 trillion ($100 billion) from ¥1 trillion and raise employment in the industry to about 110,000 from about 12,000 now.

Japan’s trade ministry will unveil plans that include government loans to procure silicon and a program to reclaim silicon from discarded solar cells, a ministry official said.

Another proposal would require power utilities to buy electricity produced by residential solar panel arrays at a rate of almost ¥50 (50.7 cents) per kilowatt hour, up from ¥24 now, for about 10 years, she said.

The plans are part of a report prepared by ministry officials and companies including Sharp, Sanyo Electric Co Ltd and Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc. Sharp was the No. 1 global producer in 2005 but ranked second to Germany’s Q-Cells SE by 2007. (Reuters)