China using its massive foreign exchange horde to buy commodity assets around the world is an old story by now.It is now also getting into the act in the Green Energy area as China’s state owned chemical group Blue Star has bought Norwegian environment chemical company Elkem from the Orkla conglomerate.Elkem is one of the largest silicon metal producers in the world and makes a solar grade polysilicon through a specialized low cost process.Orkla which is also the 40% owner of one of the world’s largest silane and polysilicon producers Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) had been looking out for some time to sell Elkem.China has not been a big producer of polysilicon which is the main raw material for producing silicon based semiconductors and silcion based solar panels.The massive demand for polycrstalline modules has resulted in it being the main demand driver for polysilicon.
About 800 jobs in the Solar Industry will be lost directly to China as the USA administration has failed to support its established solar companies.Massachusetts had supported Evergreen with $58 million in subsidies but it was not enough for Evergreen to compete against the ongoing subsidies received by the strong Chinese players who have captured almost 70% of the global market in a few short years.The other US solar companies like Sunpower and First Solar are surviving by manufacturing most of their solar panels in Malaysia and other places.The recent “Buy American” Pentagon Law may not help all that much as module making is a low value add activity already being done by European and Chinese players in the USA.In the complicated supply chain of global manufacturing its difficult to understand who ultimately benefits and loses from such provisions.Note most of the polysilicon going inside the wafers and cells made in Asia are imported from USA and Europe.
France recently halted its solar subsidy program for 3 months for solar installations under 3 kw as it was deluged with a large number of applications.Solar Feed in Tariffs are quite generous for certain type of solar panel installations like BIPV and greenhouses.This combined with rapidly falling solar panel prices primarly due to low cost Chinese manufacturing has made the business extremely lucrative.Note France is not the first country to see a massive flood of solar applications.Spain,Czech,Germany,Australia have faced problems with solar feed in tariff programs mainly because of poor design by slow moving bureaucrats.However most of these countries have never blamed cheap Chinese panel imports for their badly designed programs.Germany which is the undisputed solar market leader did for a while raise the Chinese bogey but it was for a short while.Anyone with a little understanding of the solar industry would know that almost 50% of the value is created in installation which is all done locally.Also most of the polysilicon raw material is made in the West as also most of the equipment used in producing panels in China.
Dongfang Electric Corporation,China’s largest power equipment producer has bagged major contracts in India.Dongfang Electric is the 3rd biggest Wind Turbine Producer in China as well and has managed to bag a 276 MW $203 billion WTG supply contract with Abhijeet Group .This is the first major contract wind in the Wind Equipment Sector for a Chinese company and could be start of a major trend.Dongfang has also won a small a massive $2.5 billion contract to supply 6. GW of super critical coal equipment to KSK Energy. Note Chinese companies have become the low cost leaders in the Wind Equipment Industry and sell much below Western competitors.At almost $700,000/MW,the Turbine order is a steal for the Abhijeet Group and cannot be matched by Indian or Western players.Leading WTG companies from the West like Vestas and Gamesa are reeling from Chinese competition and slowdown in Western markets.Suzlon too has been affected as Korean shipbuilders and Chinese wind producers have become major players.Using domestic content requirements and technology transfer,Chinese companies have become top global producers from zero presence just 5 years ago.
The Dollar is being relentlessly attacked by Bears due to massive QE program unleashed by the US Fed.However the US Dollar continues to be a safe refuge in many parts of the world.For countries affected by major politicial and economic problems,dollar is looked upon a safe haven for capital preservation.Many of these places have a history of high inflation and major political upheavals.In these places,Gold and Dollar are looked upon as equals for preserving wealth during times of chaos.Vietnam serves as a reminder where even citizens of relatively fast growing stable economies look upon as Dollar as a rock of stability.The South East Asian country has seen high inflation in recent times and numerous devaluations of its currency.The Communist led country has tried to replicate China in many of its policies some of which have backfired.The recent scandal and debt default of a major government owned company has shaken the confidence of investors.With high inflation and depleting foreign reserves
Rare Earth Metals promise to be a continuing geopolitical drama for the coming few years as Chinese monopoly over these crucial raw materials continues.Japan has already been at the receiving end of a Chinese exports embargo once and has its companies scattering to secure rare earth mineral resources in varied places like India,Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Vietnam.Hitachi is looking to increase recycling of rare earth minerals while other companies too are looking to optimize and reuse these metals.USA is currently less susceptible to rare earth disruptions as its requirements are quite low and anyway it imports most of the products using rare earth in finished form.