Roma Tre University, Journal of Cleaner Production, Creative Commons License CC BY 4.0
Study at Italy's Roma Tre University Highlights European Dependency in Solar Supply Chain
A comprehensive analysis by researchers at Roma Tre University in Italy has delved into the intricacies of the global photovoltaic (PV) supply chain, with a special focus on China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, and the United States from 2007 to 2021. Their study emphasized the long-term changes in trade and technological dynamics within the solar industry, underscoring the potential drawbacks of Europe's reliance on importing renewable technologies to meet environmental goals.
Francesco Crespi, a leading researcher in the study, highlighted the EU's current vulnerability due to strategic dependencies in the PV sector. The study offered a detailed look at the segments where Europe is most dependent and those where it still holds competitive advantages. For example, Europe currently leads in machinery production for the PV industry, a position that could weaken without strategic efforts to boost competitiveness. Conversely, the inverter production segment shows significant dependency, necessitating urgent action.
The research pointed out the widening gap in production costs between Europe and China, particularly in 2022-23. A notable portion of this cost disparity is attributed to Europe's higher energy costs compared to China. Crespi emphasizes that, despite these challenges, reliance on unilateral dependencies, especially in the current geopolitical context, is not advisable. Instead, he advocates for a gradual transition supported by a cohesive European industrial strategy. This strategy would focus on leveraging technological and productive synergies, as well as scale economies, particularly in the development and production of next-generation PV components.
Italian Researchers Use UN Comtrade and OECD Patent Data to Analyze Global PV Supply Chain
A team of scientists from Italy conducted an in-depth analysis of the global photovoltaic (PV) supply chain, utilizing trade data from the UN Comtrade database and patent information from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). They noted that a key limitation of their method was the level of detail in patent data, which restricted the depth of their technological analysis.
The researchers identified that more detailed insights into the specific technologies behind materials and components would have provided a clearer picture of the productive and technological aspects of the industry. Despite this limitation, a significant finding of their study is the potential for greater technological specialization to reduce dependencies in the global PV supply chain, especially in its early stages.
The scientists emphasize the PV industry as an ideal sector to explore and validate a novel policy approach. This approach would intertwine climate goals with aims for technological sovereignty and strategic autonomy, aiming to maximize sustainability, security, and growth in the green economic transformation.
Their insights and findings were detailed in a paper titled “Technological sovereignty and strategic dependencies: The case of the photovoltaic supply chain,” recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. This study contributes to the understanding of the complexities in the PV supply chain and the strategic steps needed for a more sustainable and autonomous future in renewable energy.
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