On July 3, a website called environmental progress posted the following:
Last August, in an amalgamation of ‘The Green New Deal’ meets ‘Build Back Better’, President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act gifted the renewables industry with billions of dollars worth of taxpayer-funded subsidies. What few backing the bill realized was that the largest beneficiary would likely be China due to its expansive grip on the global solar photovoltaic (PV) industry.
Worse than that, it might end up misdirecting the world’s clean energy efforts into dirtier than appreciated energy technologies because of the country’s ongoing dependence on coal-fired energy.
Information unearthed by Environmental Progress points to a gaping oversight in how the figures influencing government net zero policy and investments in solar worldwide are compiled and collated due to the difficulty of collecting accurate information out of China, especially for the purification processes used to create silicon wafers.
Key to this blind spot is that the source material for most of the assessments is provided by a small number of data compilers, many if not all of them working in collaboration with the International Energy Agency (IEA). The data is voluntarily submitted by the industry in response to academic surveys. The nature and profile of the respondents is never publicy revealed, so that there is the potential for conflicts of interest to develop.
A further puzzle is how that data feeds into an organization called Ecoinvent, a Swiss-based non-profit founded in 1998 that dubs itself “the world’s most consistent and transparent life cycle inventory database”. This data is relied on by institutions worldwide, including the IPCC and IEA itself, to calculate their carbon footprint projections, including the sixth assessment report published as recently as March 2023.
Based on such data, the IPCC claims solar PV is 48 gCO2/kWh. But, as we’ll see below, a new investigation started by Italian researcher, Enrico Mariutti, suggests that the number is closer to between 170 and 250 gCO2/kWh, depending on the energy mix used to power PV production. If this estimate is accurate, solar would not compare favorably with natural gas, which is around 50 gCO2/kWh with carbon capture, and 400 to 500 without.
On July 24, in a similar article, Hot Air noted:
I think we all know how the Chinese came to be at the forefront of solar panel manufacturing – the same way they’ve done everything else. They don’t have an innovative bone in their collective billion bodies, but what they do have is conniving. Plus cheap labor, no environmental strictures, and enterprise once they steal what they need to make something. And that’s exactly what happened with the solar industry. There were once German leaders in solar technology who are long out of business because of the Chinese filching their designs.
I think it’s time to rethink this ‘green energy’ thing.