Solar cells - China's new 'card'

With the production of 80% of all solar panels globally, China is holding a huge advantage in the renewable energy segment.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the amount spent on solar energy production reached $380 billion this year. It is also the first time in history that the sector has surpassed spending on oil exploration ($370 billion).

According to experts, the world is shifting from fossil energy to renewable energy, most of which is solar energy. Meanwhile, most photovoltaic cells are currently from China. The IEA says the country accounts for 80% of all solar panels produced globally. Considering the supply chain, the country's influence is even more pronounced: 85% of photovoltaic cell components are produced, 88% of polysilicon - panels that convert light into electricity and up to 97% of thin core protection panels. solar battery.

Workers at GCL Poly Energy, one of the world's largest solar cell manufacturers, inspect batteries at a factory in Jiangsu. Photo: AFP

China's solar dominance is quite rapid. In 2005, Europe led the race, with Germany alone accounting for a fifth of global solar cell production. Only 5 years later, the area still installs a lot of solar power but produces less. This year, for every 10 solar panels sold in the market, eight are made in China.

The rapid development of solar power in China is mainly due to the country's promotion policies, such as low capital and costs, quick approval of projects, protection of domestic companies from foreign competition. , low labor costs, extensive supply chain network and high domestic demand. These are also the factors that help China succeed as the world's hard-to-topple factory.

Strategic Cards

"The geopolitical implications of solar power becoming an alternative to oil are huge," Graham Allison, a professor at Harvard University, told the FT . "Why has the Middle East been at the center of the arena over the past decade, given that the countries there are the main suppliers of oil and gas - the source of energy for the twentieth century economy. If in the next decade , when solar power replaces a significant part of oil, who will lose the most and who will win?".

The US and Europe pledged to cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050. Last September, Jake Sullivan, US National Security Adviser, highlighted green technology as one of three particularly important factors besides semiconductors and artificial intelligence - two areas the US is restricting China with bans. However, observers assess the field of solar cells will be very different.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Joe Biden last August, the United States will provide $369 billion in green energy funding over the next 10 years, including $100 billion in subsidies for utilities. solar panel manufacturers and another $100 billion in tax incentives. Europe is also trending more money into the renewable energy sector, most of which is for solar power.

However, the European solar industry is currently dependent on importing most of its products from China. According to Alicia Garcia-Herrero, a senior fellow at Brussels-based consultancy Bruegel, Europe needs to join hands with the US to create "an optimal green zone".

"If not, what will happen? Europe will continue to import everything from China from storage batteries to solar panels, and the US will create its own ecosystem," Garcia-Herrero said. with Bloomberg .

However, according to Allison, the US, Europe or China all live on the same planet. Emissions will not affect each country but affect globally, to the point that no one will live in the future.

"To ensure the survival of their own citizens, the leaders of these countries will have to find ways to cooperate alongside competition," Allison said.

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