Armed with tens of billions in loans from the Chinese government, Chinese solar companies have scaled at a rate unthinkable only a few years ago. At the end of this year, there will likely be 50,000 megawatts (MW) of manufacturing capacity in place around the world, with much of that new capacity being developed in China and other Asian countries. (In the year 2000, there were only 100 MW of production capacity worldwide.)
In four years, the solar manufacturing sector shifted from being led by a geographically dispersed number of companies to one dominated by Chinese companies. In 2006, there were two companies from China in the list of top ten cell producers. In 2010, there were six, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. There are currently only two non-Asian manufacturers in the top ten, and those companies — First Solar and Q-Cells — have shifted a lot of their production to Asia.
So what happened? How did the Chinese come to completely dominate the solar industry in such a short period of time?
Bryan Ashley, the Chief Marketing Officer for Suniva, an American company that produces high-efficiency solar cells in Georgia, doesn’t mince words.
“The Chinese strategy is very clear. They are engaging in predatory financing and they’re trying to drive everybody else out of the market. When you’ve got free money you can out-dump everybody below cost,” Ashley said in an interview with Climate Progress.
That “free money” Ashley refers to is the cheap debt provided by the Chinese Development Bank (CDB). Here’s how the CDB works its magic.
The CDB was originally set up as a “policy bank,” to operate as an arm of the Chinese central government, doling out public funding to support central government development programs. Now it is a “joint stock company with limited liability” that often reports to China’s national cabinet on certain policy issues. This allows the Chinese government to get involved in CDB activities and direct loans toward projects officials want to support. Guardian