The Japanese government early on decided that the photovoltaic industry is of strategic value and that the semiconductor industry should be encouraged to develop the leading industry in the world. A range of R&D and industry development measures have been introduced.
The development of the domestic Japanese PV market has a complementary double effect. Firstly, it contributes to the Japanese energy programme for renewables, and secondly it supports the development of the Japanese PV technology and industry.
The Japanese support programme for PV technology supported by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), formerly Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), is directed to reduce cost levels to compete with the current commercial costs of the bulk power market and with electric utilities.
There is strong environmental support in Japan for solar PV technology. The Government Committee on Energy and Environmental Technology has established the “New Sunshine” programme. This is a long-term project, originally scheduled to run from 1974 to year 2000 and subsequently extended. Its goals are to develop sufficient alternative energy sources to supply a considerable portion of total Japanese energy needs.
In Japan solar PV has been the main thrust of the Japanese government’s renewables programme, whereas in Europe a more broad brush approach has been adapted, with wind power at the forefront. The Japanese concentration on photovoltaics is no coincidence but reflects the areas and population density of Japan and the advanced development of the semiconductor industry.
Japan did have the largest domestic market for photovoltaics, the highest exports and the largest manufacturing capacity, a lead, which it took from the United States in the last five years. Now, the country has the third largest domestic market and China is the number one manufacturer of solar cells.