Energy Journal: Polysilicon Provokes New Solar Tiff

July 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

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Polysilicon seems an unlikely cause of a diplomatic standoff. In anyone’s list it would appear way below a border skirmish or spying scandal and only just above a badly cooked hors d’oeuvre at an ambassadorial reception.

Still, here it is – there is dismay at a Chinese ban on imports, from the U.S. and South Korea, of the world’s second most abundant element.

It’s all part of a longstanding trade rift over the manufacture of solar panels between the world’s two largest economies.

The U.S. imposed tariffs on Chinese-made solar cells last year after it determined that Chinese makers got illegal subsidies and dumped goods. Earlier this year, the European Union imposed preliminary tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels. Those tariffs become official next month unless the two sides defuse the issue.

The trade war is likely to hurt the solar business – together, Chinese solar-manufacturers supply half the world’s panels, and global installed capacity is growing at quite a rate.

One factor in this growth may be that the installation of photovoltaic modules is faster and cheaper than grid expansion – that is certainly the case in Peru, where the government is rolling out solar energy to bring electricity to some of the country’s poorest people.

This sort of project is a long way from the political-commercial maneuverings being played out in Washington, Beijing and Seoul, but it’s exactly the sort of place that will feel the trickle-down effect.


Britain has fired the starting gun on its very own shale-gas industry, with the announcement of generous tax breaks for frackers.

Parts of England are home to what the government hopes will be game-changing amounts of gas. But this is a green and pleasant land, and not one that will take lightly to being fracked. Battle lines have been drawn in the north-west; in the south-east the government faces opposition from its core constituency.

The anti-fracking camp will take succor from the water industry’s guarded warning of the potential for contamination and shortage.

The pro-frackers will rally behind London’s maladroit, bumptious mayor – a man who would frack his own mother’s prized rose garden if he thought it meant he could heat his house.

So a public-awareness campaign is also in full swing – one of the country’s three energy ministers this week delivered a detailed riposte to what the government calls the myths of fracking.

Will the U.K. economy feel the effect of shale gas in the same way that the U.S. has? Well, maybe yes and maybe no. How much of the resource is actually recoverable is key, as the Oil Drum explains.

But one thing is for sure – the U.K. is about to experience the same arguments for and against that have been raging in the U.S. for the past five years. These are explained by The Wall Street Journal’s John Bussey.

The U.K.’s shale experience is only just beginning. Eventually someone might make a profit from it, and benefit from those tax breaks, but that is a long way off.


Asian coal is on a roll, the Journal’s Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen reports. Governments across the region are ordering new coal-fired power stations as economic realities outweigh worries about pollution.

Coal prices are falling – bad news for producers, but good for consumers. Coal from the U.S. is likely to need a new home should climate-change proposals pass into statute. Any large-scale exports of U.S. coal will pressure prices further.

Japan is increasing its coal use, the Journal’s Mari Iwata reports, and at least one Australian miner is targeting the country over China. Meanwhile Vietnam will cut coal exports and divert its shrinking output into a fleet of coal-fired power stations.

Coal’s not dead.


The price of both benchmark crude-oil contracts moved a little closer in London morning trade Friday after Nymex WTI had in the previous session moved to within $1 of price parity with ICE Brent. You can read the latest Journal market report here.

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