Saturday Feb 04, 2023

After Russia now China: Europe wants its own solar panel industry back – Innovation Origins

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“We cannot replace our dependence on Russian gas with a reliance on China for solar energy production.” Speaking is the European Commission official in charge of Europe’s energy-intensive industry. The man, Joaquim Nunes de Almeida, is working overtime these months. His job is to facilitate the decision of his political bosses to stop importing gas from Russia as soon as possible. He speaks of it as an “acute priority.”

Nunes de Almeida is fully committed to spurring the production of far more solar and wind energy in Europe. Whether it involves solar panels on the roofs of houses or the construction of large units in open fields, production has to increase by at least 20 percent.

Joaquim Nunes de Almeida

“Our day-to-day work is to encourage the manufacture of solar panels continually,” the Portuguese said to a packed conference room at Brussels’ Radisson Hotel.

Nunes de Almeida is one of the main speakers at the Solar Power Summit, the annual lobbying event held by the European solar industry. A few hundred men and women are in the room who make their living from Europe’s green transition.

They are themselves the manufacturers of solar panels and the raw material silicon. But also present are the companies that install the panels and, of course, the dealers who try to sell solar power. There are plenty of advisors walking around who are experts in all kinds of financing models. The term’ blockchain’ is mentioned at a small stand-up table next to the enormous buffet.

Russia and China

Two words dominate in the conference room and its corridors: Russia and China. The unexpected war in Ukraine has thrown European Commissioner Frans Timmermans’ climate policy planning into disarray. Until a month ago, the European Union thought Russian natural gas could act as a transition fuel. While the gas would continue to flow through pipelines in the Baltic Sea, we would steadily increase the production of green energy. But this war is triggering a revolution. Before the end of the year, Russian gas imports must be cut by a third. And to make that possible, sustainable energy production, among other things, must be stepped up.

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The biggest problem is that the ambition to go green will initially take Europe out of the frying pan into the fire. Independence from Russia implies dependence on China. “More than 90 percent of the chain involves China in one way or another,” says Tobias Bradis, among others. The German heads the silicon branch of the German multinational Wacker Chemie. A billion-dollar company with over 14 thousand employees around the world. His company single-handedly consumes 0.8 percent of Germany’s total power generation needed to manufacture high-grade silicon that forms the raw material for solar panels. To underline our dependence, he says, “Without China, we would not have any solar panels here.”

Over the past 15 years, China has established a dominant position in the global solar panel market. The Chinese state supports Chinese industrial manufacturing with vast sums of money and cheap power. The factories are located in Xinjiang and run possibly using Uyghurs as forced laborers.

How do we beat China?

How can we beat China is the question at the heart of the discussion between the Commission official and the CEOs who have to make the solar panels. We cannot compete in terms of price, but we can …….

Source: https://innovationorigins.com/en/after-russia-now-china-europe-wants-its-own-solar-panel-industry-back/

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