China is one of the few major solar markets, and is also portrayed as having an essential role in the production chain for raw materials and the solar industry, though the country is currently considering restricting exports of key solar production technology.
The Ministry of Commerce recently issued an announcement that added seven technologies that are prohibited or restricted in exports, including solar PV wafer preparation technology, LiDAR systems, cell cloning and gene editing technologies for humans, CRISPR gene editing technology, synthetic biology technology, utilization of advantages in crop crossbreeding, as well as the handling and conveying technology of bulk materials.
Almost all equipment required for the production of solar silicon ingots and wafers are produced by China, especially with large-sized solar cells used for ground-mounted PV.
Should the proposal by the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology be accepted, Chinese solar businesses must receive approvals from provincial commercial departments before exporting products related to the seven categories mentioned above. The Chinese government has started seeking for public opinions on the amendment for the catalog of restricted export technologies, and has yet to publicly announce the date of finalization.
To produce solar panels, high-quality silicon is first extracted from quartz, and then made into cylindrical shapes, before being sliced in thin pieces. Solar cells are then produced through chemical processing, and are assembled with the silicon wafers into a solar module. China’s proposal of export control will implicate key equipment and technologies for the intermediate stages.
As mentioned by IEA’s report last year, China managed to lower the cost of solar power by more than 80% with a decade, and the global market is becoming increasingly dependent on China’s solar supply Chain. The country currently occupies 80% of the global solar supply chain, with 97% of silicon ingots and wafers coming from China. China’s market share in the global solar market would draw near 95% by 2025.
The US and Europe are attempting to cultivate their own solar industry chain whilst being devoted towards lowering their dependency on imports in the midst of pursuing energy transformation. Abigail Ross Hopper, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, commented that China’s proposal of export restrictions proves that the US must now accelerate in the expansion of its own solar production chain.
Bureau of Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs, also unfolded a solar PV module supply and demand conference before Chinese New Year, and asked unions and associations to maintain self-discipline by not utilizing modules adopted with solar cells made in China. Bureau of Energy and the Industrial Development Bureau will also discuss on the strengthening of existing module supply and demand platforms in order to ensure unimpeded market activities for modules required for solar sites. The former will be asking the latter to draft for measures that would improve the competitiveness of the domestic module industry.
(Cover photo source: pixabay)