A Bright Future for Solar Energy in China

May 17, 2010
By Sun Xiaohua
China's solar energy industries are burgeoning. Dynamic growth due to the global fight against climate change has made China the world's number one producer of solar cells. In 2001, solar cells produced in China provided 3.000 kilowatts of electricity – in 2008, according to a report published by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, production had reached two million kilowatts. This is an increase of over 600 per cent. Over the past ten years, China's solar industry has seen annual growth of around 41 per cent.

According to the same report, 98 per cent of all solar cells were exported – mainly to the US and Europe. Not even 1 per cent was used in China itself. But Wang Sicheng of the Energy Research Institute, the country's topmost strategic planning authority, is convinced that the focus of the Chinese solar energy industry will gradually shift from foreign to domestic markets. “In order to further advance the development of solar energy in China, the sizable domestic market has to be opened up.” And he adds: “The use of solar energy in rural areas, in industry, as well as solar systems integrated into buildings should be the centre of further activity.”

According to sources within China's Energy Ministry, authorities have meanwhile simplified the process to grant operational approval to solar projects, while at the same time making it harder to get such approval for coal-fired, water, and wind power stations.

To boost solar energy a so-called “Golden Sun” programme was initiated. From now on and until 2011, the ministries for energy, finance, and science and technology will bear half of the construction and connection costs of on-grid solar power stations and 70 per cent of the costs of off-grid stations. Earlier, subsidies had already been granted for installing roof-mounted solar systems that were used as pilot projects. In addition, many regional governments have created subsidy programmes, too.

Yet, according to Wang, not only is the Chinese solar industry dependent on imports of silicon, there are other problems, too – missing key technologies, pollution, and the dependency on the demands of foreign markets.

Green New Deal / Great Transformation