The market for electricity is sustainable. That ~2 billion people globally go without electricity is a tragedy. The potential for business in the developing world is significant, but the problems that need to be addressed to do so are difficult to overcome, as the problems include basic affordability.
Markets without subsidies are indeed sustainable. These markets are also smaller than the markets with incentives.
Sometime around the year 2004, just as Europe's feed-in tariff incentive model began to drive stronger market growth, First Solar chose to focus on that market, shutting operations elsewhere. This strategy was obviously very successful; it was the first thin-film manufacturer to be No.1 on the annual top ten shipment lists, a historic moment for solar. To get there, First Solar had to endure a period of entry pricing, but it emerged strong and profitable. When the US began to show signs of emerging, the company entered with a vertical strategy in which it installed its own panels, allowing it to install at manufacturing cost plus transfer costs. During the early years of its strategy, the company was highly competitive in this regard.
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