The global push for decarbonization and clean energy transition is increasing day by day, and the United States is no exception. A new study from Cornell University highlights the need for nationalizing American solar energy supply chains to reduce emissions and increase energy security. The researchers found that if the US could transition to manufacturing all of its solar panels by 2035, it would reduce emissions by 30% and energy consumption by 13%.
The COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have highlighted the vulnerabilities of global supply chains, particularly in the energy sector. The European Union’s dependence on Russia to keep the lights on has plunged it into an energy crisis, and the US could face a similar situation with its reliance on China for at least 80% of its solar panels. By nationalizing solar energy supply chains, the US can reduce its dependence on foreign countries and increase energy security.
The move towards nationalism and protectionism in trade partnerships has also contributed to the need for nationalizing solar energy supply chains. In recent years, countries have increasingly limited their economic and trade partnerships to countries with similar values and strong alliances. Shorter supply chains are now being viewed as more resilient and are being advocated for in policy and research circles.
One of the arguments for nationalizing solar energy supply chains is that it would greatly reduce their carbon footprint and energy use. Currently, the US relies on imported solar panels, which leads to increased emissions from shipping and higher energy use. By producing solar panels domestically, the US can reduce its carbon footprint and energy consumption. The timing for beefing up domestic green energy manufacturing has never been better, as President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act has put forward billions of dollars of subsidies and incentives for doing just that.
The study from Cornell Engineering found that producing solar panels domestically would also reduce lag times in connecting them to the grid. Working within a smaller geographic area with fewer middlemen would allow solar panels to get connected to the grid faster. This is particularly important as delays in connecting to the grid are one of the significant setbacks that the solar industry is currently facing.
Fengqi You, a co-author of the study, explained in a press release that “the US will see a larger share of renewable power accounting for primary energy consumption and an overall lower primary energy consumption over the years for solar panel manufacturing.” The move towards nationalizing solar energy supply chains would, therefore, contribute to the US’s goal of increasing the share of renewable power in its primary energy consumption.
Lower greenhouse gas emissions in the US would also benefit the world as China, followed by the United States, is responsible for emitting the highest amount of greenhouse gases globally. These two countries along with India account for 42.6% of total emissions, while more than half of the world’s countries, comprising the bottom 100, contribute a mere 2.9% to the overall emissions. Nationalizing solar energy supply chains would, therefore, have a significant impact on reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
Bringing back solar panel supply chains to the domestic market would not only reduce emissions but also address the current challenges faced by the solar industry, such as supply chain bottlenecks, trade tensions, bureaucratic hurdles, and difficulty in securing adequate land tracts. Nationalizing solar energy supply chains would make it easier to address these hurdles and help the US move towards a more sustainable and resilient energy system.
In conclusion, the push for decarbonization and clean energy transition requires significant investment in green energy production capacity and infrastructure. Nationalizing American solar energy supply chains is an essential step towards increasing energy security and reducing emissions. By producing solar panels domestically, the US can reduce its reliance on foreign countries and contribute to the global push towards a more sustainable and resilient energy system.
Jonas Muthoni is an entrepreneur and renewable energy expert. He is the founder of MicroGridMedia.com, a website dedicated to bringing the latest news and information about solar energy and other renewable energy sources to the public. Jonas is passionate about promoting sustainable energy solutions and educating the public about the benefits of renewable energy. He is a regular speaker at industry events and conferences and is committed to driving the transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.