Feb. 18 (Bloomberg) — Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., a Japanese oil refiner, plans to become a global leader in solar-cell output as it diversifies to benefit from clean-energy subsidies.

Showa Shell will increase production efficiency and cost competitiveness to “top levels in the world,” it said today in its five-year management plan. The company also intends to lead the development of solar modules, which use photovoltaic cells.

Japan began an incentive program in July to promote alternative power generation following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. That prompted companies such as mobile carrier Softbank Corp. and Tokyo-based Showa Shell to expand in solar energy as demand climbed.

“Once we gain a foothold in Japan, we want to gain ground in the international market,” Showa Shell President Jun Arai said today at a press briefing. The company is seeking to reduce the cost of CIGS solar panels — thin-film units using copper, indium, gallium and selenium — by about half in 2017, he said.

Showa Shell’s Energy Solution business posted a 19 percent jump in 2012 sales to 78.2 billion yen ($833 million), while its operating loss narrowed to 15.4 billion yen from 28.8 billion yen, a Feb. 14 filing showed. The division comprises solar-cell production and sales, as well as wholesale power supply.

Japan is poised to become the world’s third-largest market for solar power this year, according to forecasts from researcher Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chisaki Watanabe in Tokyo at cwatanabe5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net