China much ahead of others in race for solar power

Despite efforts by countries like US, India and Germany, China is marching well ahead of all of them when it comes to capturing the solar energy market, a top American energy official has said.

China’s solar energy budget still stands roughly 20 times larger than America’s investment in the same period, Jonathan Silver, Executive Director, Department of Energy (DOE) told US lawmakers on Saturday.

"Germany and Canada already operate government-backed clean energy lending programs.The UK, Australia and India have announced the intent to do the same.

"But none have been as aggressive as the Chinese government, which last year alone provided more than $30 billion in credit to its country’s largest solar manufacturers," he said.

"Why is China making this investment? Because the race for solar power manufacturing jobs is a race worth winning. Over the next few decades, this will become a global market worth trillions of dollars," Silver said.

The scenario has witnessed a complete turnaround with US share in solar cell manufacturing, which stood at 40 per cent till 1995, being toppled by China which has increased its holding to 54 per cent from 6 per cent in 2005. Surprisingly, US hold on the market has reduced to a meagre 6 per cent.

China is now home to five of the 10 largest solar panel manufacturers in the world while only two of them are in the US," Silver said, adding that the country has produced and provided a wide array of additional support facilities to support growth of the sector. China, he said, has focused on the market segment in parts because it’s very cost-effective way to mass-produce those panels with the funding of China Development Bank and other smaller banks.

Availability of cheap labour has also backed country’s rapid growth in the sector. Underlining need for US to bounce back with sincere efforts, Silver said US should not just set its focus on China but take it as a global challenge in view of the importance and the viability of this space.

"There will only be one opportunity for us to become a winner here, and if we miss that window, we will have missed a multi- trillion-dollar market," Silver said.