A recent Wall Street Journal article makes clear there are two global solar supply chains: one reliant on coal-fired power—producing solar panels with high embodied carbon pollution—the other, producing solar panels with about ½ the embodied carbon as the dirtier panels. With solar poised to be the leading global energy source by 2040, how we manufacture solar products matters, because not all solar is created equal.
Climate experts from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently provided the world with an assessment of the significant danger climate change poses. Among the sobering analysis was one key message, we simply cannot afford unnecessary carbon emissions, and certainly not from clean energy manufacturing. To meet climate goals solar buyers need access to solar supply chains committed to ultra low-carbon manufacturing. We simply can’t afford to rely on coal-fired solar anymore. Recent developments can accelerate the U.S. shift to ultra low-carbon solar to fuel our clean energy revolution and bolster the more sustainable supply chains we need.
The first is the forthcoming EPEAT Ultra Low-Carbon Solar ecolabel being issued by the Global Electronics Council next year. The label will clearly define the standard for low-carbon solar panels as well as provide third party verification of manufacturer’s carbon claims, allowing buyers to specify ultra low-carbon solar panels in projects and PPAs with confidence. This market demand will send an important signal to manufacturers as well; buyers want low carbon solar. To be responsive to that market demand companies will understand that future investments in solar manufacturing need to be low carbon. This is critical; the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance has estimated that by 2040 solar manufacturing could emit a cumulative 15-18 gigatons of carbon pollution if we do not change course. These are avoidable emissions, and we must act to prevent them.
To avoid these emissions, we need a more sustainable solar supply chain. The Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act (SEMA) recently introduced by Senators Jon Ossoff (GA), Raphael Warnock (GA), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Michael Bennet (CO), SEMA is an important step towards building a decarbonized domestic solar supply chain in the U.S. The bill provides tax credits for solar manufacturers aimed at incentivizing investment and expansion in U.S. solar manufacturing. This legislation will support domestic low-carbon production at every stage of the solar supply chain, from PV grade polysilicon, to ingots, wafers, cells, and solar panels.
Enacting SEMA would provide multiple benefits for both our carbon goals and American workers. U.S. solar manufacturers already rely on low carbon power sources, producing solar panels with low levels of embodied carbon, and expanding U.S. solar manufacturing across the supply chain will ensure that the clean energy revolution will be powered with truly clean energy. Furthermore, by incentivizing the domestic solar sector’s expansion, the U.S. can be a leader globally in sustainable manufacturing. Creating a policy environment in which U.S. solar manufacturers can thrive will result in thousands of high-quality, well-paying jobs. Securing these employment opportunities would be invaluable for Americans and the U.S. economy.
Innovation and dedication to smart manufacturing will be key to unlocking a sustainable clean energy economy and fighting climate change. American ultra low-carbon solar manufacturers are ready for this moment. Policy tools like SEMA and the ULCS ecolabel will ensure that the U.S. takes advantage of this opportunity and can accelerate the market’s transition to ultra low-carbon solar.
To learn more about the SEMA Act and its benefits, visit www.supportussolar.com.