Will China’s export restrictions on solar cell technology cause the US ‘pain’?

Will China's export restrictions on solar cell technology cause the US pain?  - Photo 1.

Chinese companies control about 80% of the global supply chain for solar energy production – Photo: ZUMA PRESS

Industry experts say that China’s plan is aimed at restricting exports of an important technology segment in solar cell production.

According to the sheet Wall Street Journalwhich could delay efforts to build a domestic solar supply chain in the US.

Will China account for 96% of the world’s solar cell market share by 2023?

Beijing has solicited public comment on its plan to change the policy, but has not publicly said when it will make a decision.

China’s technology and trade regulators also did not respond to media requests for comment.

According to estimates by the Paris-based International Energy Agency, Chinese companies control about 80% of the global supply chain for solar energy production. The country produces nearly half of the equipment needed to manufacture solar panels and their components. Especially for large-scale solar panels that are increasingly dominating the market.

Solar panels are created by extracting high grade silicon from quartz. Then form cylindrical ingots. They are finally cut into thin sheets and chemically treated to create cells capable of converting sunlight into energy. China’s export controls target equipment and techniques critical to the middle stages of the process.

According to market research firm TrendForce based in Taipei, currently only Chinese companies can produce larger 182 and 210mm wafers. TrendForce says larger wafers, which allow for cheaper and more efficient production of solar panels, are expected to account for 96% of the world market share by 2023.

Expert: America will not suffer much damage, but painful!

In 2022, the US passed a law to encourage the construction of solar cell manufacturing facilities at home. And, American companies have revealed billions of dollars in investments in the plant.

Currently, in the US, there are no factories that produce ingots or solar panels.

However, at least two companies, Korea Hanwha Group’s Qcells and startup CubicPV Inc. backed by billionaire Bill Gates, has announced plans to fill that gap over the next few years.

China’s plans do not appear to be retaliation for US chip and semiconductor restrictions, but are most likely designed to ensure Chinese dominance, industry analysts said. China in the field of solar energy. It also disrupts other countries’ attempts to build their own supply chains.

China’s solar restrictions won’t be as damaging as US chip controls, analysts say. Because, producing solar energy does not require the same level of precision. America, on the other hand, has the ultimate know-how to make machines.

However, “this move will be painful for the US,” said Ilaria Mazzocco, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Dan Wang, an analyst at consulting firm Gavekal Dragonomics, explained: “Solar energy is a widely available technology, so cost competitiveness is one of the main advantages of the energy industry. China’s solar energy.

“The inaccessibility of manufacturing technology for these large modules will likely increase production costs in the US,” said Mr. Wang. It would also force potential manufacturers in the US to either look elsewhere for equipment, or wait for the process of rebuilding production machines. It’s a process that can take several years.

On the Chinese side, on the other hand, according to analysts at TrendForce, China’s new plan could hurt its own solar industry that is struggling to globalize and diversify its supply chain. .

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