It’s been a while since we had a post dedicated to renewables, so let’s me divert you to two articles on solar. The first, the cover feature “Here Comes the Sun” of The Beijinger its green issue this March, speaks to the general state of China’s solar industry and concludes that despite the tough times (see previous post), a vast market and progressive national renewable energy policies make China the key to a solar future.Â Yours truly is quoted several times in this piece.
The Beijinger article provides a good background to the second article, “Getting Out of the Shade: Solar Energy as a National Security Strategy,” which I penned for China Security journal.Â Â In this piece, I lament the fact that China’s solar photovoltaics (PV) industry has been export oriented, but argue that there is no time better than now to develop its domestic solar market because of a combination of increased solar module and polysilicon supply and decreased overseas demandÂ is driving costs down to record lows.Â I don’t want to give too much away, but I will summarize here some of the main arguments for solarizing China now:
- The national security argument is compelling–think energy security (distributed PV is far less vulnerable to failure than centralized fossil power), economic security (green jobs), social security (distributed PV is ideal for rural electrification), and of course environmental security.
- A narrow focus on waiting for “grid parity” of solar misses out on the true value of distributed PV.Â A holistic comparative analysis of centralized coal power versus distributed solar PV will give consideration to the negative externalities of coal use (some 1.7 trillion yuan per year as we described in a previous post) and the positive externalities of distributed PV such as:
* the national security value described above
* the peak demand shaving capabilities of solar
*Â solar does not require expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure
*Â PV panels can serve dual functions such as providing roof shade or even as construction materials
*Â the modularity of solar PV means that it can be installed quicker than large coal power plants and better meet power demand
In the paper’s final section, I present a list of policy recommendations which are similar to those I outlined last June, including:
- Electricity price reform
- Enacting an feed-in-tariff for solar and introducing net metering
- Government procurement of PV panels
- Introducing innovative financing mechanism to reduce upfront financial burden to potential solar users
- Enhancing technical capacity, education of skilled workforce and grid interconnectability of solar
I encourage readers to take a closer read of my paper and to tell me what you think in the comments section below.