Ten years ago, Geof Moser had just graduated with a master’s degree in solar energy from Arizona State University – but he didn’t feel much opportunity lay at his feet in his home country.
So he headed for China.
“The solar industry was fairly small and there weren’t a lot of jobs,” he remembers. “Just a few for installation.” But the Chinese government had big ambitions to expand solar and Moser saw his chance.
“What China is trying to do is rationalise a very large, fast growing system,” explains Jeffrey Ball at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. Ball is the lead author of a recent report that details China’s success as an innovator in the solar panel industry.
But as Ball points out, the revolution has not been without teething issues. For one thing, Chinese subsidies, which some argue are unsustainable, have not always been smoothly administered. The “feed-in tariff”, for example, often offered to solar companies that generate electricity, has sometimes been paid late.
“The government is often a year or more late in delivering that revenue – that wreaks havoc with the financials on a project,” says Ball.
“Depending on who you talk to in the provinces that have by far the largest amount of solar production, curtailment rates are 30% and in some cases significantly higher than 30% – that’s extraordinary and that’s a real problem,” explains Ball.Read More