Germany’s solar power industry worried by dependence on Chinese suppliers
The great reliance on hardware supply from China is causing concern among Germany’s solar power industry, public broadcaster BR reports. About 95 percent of the solar cells installed in Germany are sourced from Chinese manufacturers, but supply chain problems linked to China’s strict COVID-containment policy and broader geopolitical risks could mean that German renewable power expansion plans are put in jeopardy, the article says. “We’re 100 percent relying on China,” entrepreneur Amir Roughani of solar power company Visprion told BR. Deliveries of Chinese solar cells have been delayed heavily in recent months. “We now have several projects that can only be built next year or even in the year following,” Roughani said. The solar power entrepreneur went on to say that Europe had to repatriate strategic sectors of the economy if it wants to avoid a dependence similar to that for fossil fuels from Russia. “Otherwise I see dramatic consequences for our climate targets,” he said.
Reliance on cheap Chinese manufacturers has been a severe problem for domestic manufacturers for years, meaning many have been forced out of business, leaving Germany bereft of a capable domestic industry. Mass production of solar cells in Germany “simply is no longer competitive,” said Manfred Gößl, head of a chamber of commerce (DIHK) in the southern German state of Bavaria. China not only offered solar power hardware at lower prices but also had secured access to strategic resources needed for production. However, Gößl said there still is hope for rebuilding a competitive national solar power industry in Germany. “We can build better solar cells,” which are more effective and produce more electricity, he argued.
After initially boasting a leading solar power industry in the early 2000s, German manufacturers succumbed to cheap competitors from China around 2010. While cheaper prices from Asian producers helped to spur solar power installations, critics have warned that reliance on imports from China deprives Europe of a key industry for the future and leads to less efficient hardware produced at higher environmental costs. Industry representatives have therefore called for making the revamp of the EU’s solar power industry ‘a Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI),’ similar to existing projects for hydrogen and battery production.