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A leading solar developer urges that solar supply chains reduce their reliance on China

Solar supply chains must diversify away from China.

One of the world’s leading solar developers has issued a warning about the necessity to diversify renewable power supply chains, following shipping delays of solar panels from China to the United States.

Miguel Stilwell d’Andrade, the CEO of Portugal-based energy company EDP, emphasized the importance of “de-risking” supply chains for developers to support the transition to cleaner energy.

European Union officials have expressed concerns that the growing reliance on solar power should not lead to an increased dependence on China, echoing similar worries in various sectors due to escalating geopolitical tensions between Beijing and Western nations.

Chinese companies currently dominate global polysilicon production, a crucial raw material for solar panels, with much of it concentrated in Xinjiang, a region where the Chinese government has faced allegations of human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim residents.

EDP’s subsidiary based in Madrid had to postpone the development of approximately 900 megawatts of US solar farms until the following year due to delays in importing products from the supplier Longi, prompted by legislation aimed at curbing the use of forced labor in China.

As an alternative, EDP began sourcing products from suppliers in South Korea, Malaysia, and Vietnam for its US projects.

The disruption in US solar panel imports began with the enactment of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in June 2022, which prohibits the importation of all products associated with Xinjiang unless it can be proven they are not produced with forced labor.

Earlier this year, RWE, Germany’s largest utility company, also reported delays due to the US ban, which it said posed a threat to the development of green energy infrastructure.

In addition to polysilicon production, China has also become a global leader in the technology used to transform this raw material into the ingots and wafers used in solar cell manufacturing, further underscoring its significance.

The EU was the world’s largest solar power manufacturer in the early 2000s until it was overtaken by China’s state-driven expansion in the sector.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen recently remarked, “We have not forgotten how China’s unfair trade practices affected our solar industry.”

Brussels aims to reestablish the EU as a major hub for solar production, although financial and logistical challenges remain in its path.

EDP, whose largest shareholder is the Chinese state-owned China Three Gorges Corporation, boasts around 23 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity installed worldwide, sufficient to power millions of homes, including over 2 gigawatts of solar energy. The company plans to add more than 4 gigawatts of renewables annually between this year and 2026, with significant investments in the US solar market.


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