Europe should abandon its "buy from abroad" strategy for renewable energy, researchers say.
Release Date: 2024-01-18 Visit: 42 Source: TIDE SOLAR INC.

Italian researchers have assessed the global photovoltaic supply chain and said the EU climate strategy should boost the production of renewable energy technologies in Europe.

Researchers at the University of Rome Tre in Italy studied global PV supply chain dependencies from 2007 to 2021, focusing on China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and the United States.
The scientists mapped the global solar supply chain in terms of trade and technology, focusing on the long-term evolution of trade and technology hierarchies. They said that achieving environmental goals through a "buy from abroad" strategy would have implications for technological and production sustainability.
Researcher Francesco Crespi said that despite recent efforts to revive PV module production in some member states, the EU remains vulnerable to strategic dependence.
“In our study, we adopted a perspective to identify the parts of the PV supply chain that Europe is most dependent on, and which, on the other hand, still offer some competitive advantages,” Crespi told pv magazine. “ For example, our research found that Europe has a competitive advantage in the production of machinery for the photovoltaic industry, but that this advantage could be quickly eroded in the absence of a dedicated strategy to further strengthen Europe's competitiveness in this area. On the other hand, we believe The production of inverters is an industry where dependency problems appear to be particularly severe and require urgent action.”

Researchers found a growing gap in production costs between Europe and China in 2022-23.
"Interestingly, a relevant part of this difference can be explained by the excessive cost of energy in Europe relative to China," Crespi said. “This does not mean that we should accept maintaining the current level of unilateral dependence. On the contrary, in the current geopolitical situation, a shift from dependence on fossil fuels and their suppliers to another must be avoided. Of course, this process It should be progressive and cannot be achieved without a jointly effective European industrial strategy that allows the exploitation of technological and production synergies and economies of scale, particularly in the development and production of next-generation photovoltaic modules.”
The scientists based their analysis on trade data from the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics database and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) patent database. The main limitation of this approach relates to the level of detail of the patent information.
"Patents exceeding four digits would allow for a more fine-grained analysis of the technology of materials and components, as well as a more precise matching of production and technology aspects," the researchers said.
A key finding of the study suggests that greater technological specialization can alleviate the strong dependence of the global PV supply chain, especially in the upstream sector.
“The photovoltaic industry is one of the most relevant candidates to apply and test the effectiveness of a new policy approach in which climate objectives, technological sovereignty and strategic autonomy goals go hand in hand to maximize sustainable development, security and growth opportunities , to achieve a green transformation of the economy," the scientists said.
The research team presents its findings in a paper, "Technological Sovereignty and Strategic Dependence: The Case of the Photovoltaic Supply Chain," recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production.