USA is the 2nd largest importer of REE and it has thought of taking the issue to WTO.But the WTO has proved to be quite toothless delaying the hearing of issue till 2011.Obama has decided to rake up the REE shortage in the G-20 meeting even as US Senate thinks of passing legislation to boost domestic sources of REE.Molycorp was up more than 11% forming yet another lifetime high on the news.Note the US Congress has already passed a REE law and the Senate needs to endorse the draft in order for it to become law.Rare Earth Elements have a Defense Angle to them as well as many of the REE such as samarium are used in Defense Products.Radars,Pathfinders,Smart Bombs and a number of hitech weaponry require Rare Elements for their production.Without a domestic source,USA might be put at a serious disadvantage in the coming decades.
Malaysia is set to become one of the largest solar panel producing nations overtaking much larger rivals USA and Japan as world class companies start/expand capacities in Malaysia.Every country is trying to promoter Green Industry in the fight for leadership of this new age industry and to create high paying green jobs.Billions of Dollars in Green Stimulus has been doled out by governments but with varying degrees of success.USA has managed to squander most of its Green Subsidies despite possessing a very strong technological base as US Companies shutter US factories to outsource production to Asia and Mexico.European Countries have seen a similar phenomenon as their high costs force domestic companies to shift to Asia for their survival.China and Taiwan are the largest solar cell producers in Asia due to their low costs,good infrastructure and massive government support.Taiwan has also been able to leverage its semiconductor strengths with companies like TSMC and AUO expanding into solar energy.However Malaysia has been a surprise winner as well.It is important to understand the reasons behind Malaysia’s success as it has beat countries with much larger solar energy markets like USA and Japan.It also has no massive semiconductor industry like Taiwan which can redeploy its skills.It has only recently introduced a Feed in Tariff Policy to promote Renewable Energy
Vestas employs over 8000 people in Denmark which is its home base out of the 22000 employees worldwide.The comppany now plans to fire 3000 workers mostly from Denmark even as it hires workers in places like India and UK.Vestas has to cut a lot of flab as Chinese companies destroy higher priced competition in the Wind Energy Industry.Like the Solar Industry,where European companies like Q-Cells and Solarworld are facing an existential crisis from low cost Chinese competition ,Wind Energy now faces similar dynamics.Like Q-Cells and REC which relocated their manufacturing to Asia,Vestas has to do a similar act.Despite a record order book of 6.5 GW in Q310,Vestas has to fire Danish workers who are more than 10x more expensive than similar Asian workers.In a globalized world,companies don’t have the luxury of employing expensive workers in developed countries if similar wokers can be employed elsewhere.Note competition is increasing in Wind Energy with big players like Hyundai,Samsung,Northrop and smaller players entering the industry.
Putting up Solar Panels on prominent landmarks is an easy and cheap way to promote Green Energy.In the last few years, a number for prominent places in the world have been installing solar energy in an effort to reduce GHGs and to publicize the clean economy.It advertises the advantages of putting solar panels in powering buildings which account for 40% of the global energy usage.’s Sydney’s Opera House,India’s Golden Temple are some of the other landmarks that have installed solar panels to cut fossil fuel use and encourage the use of renewable energy.White House has also decided to install solar panels next year after a prolonged campaign by green activists.Note White House had earlier installed solar panels during the time of Jimmy Carter and the OPEC Oil Embargo.These has been decommissioned by Reagan reflecting changed energy fundamentals.India’s Parliament House has now decided to go green using solar panels and biomass plants to drastically reduce its carbon footprint.The Indian Parliament generate a huge amount of food waste which will help in powering the biomass plant.
Chinese Monopoly over Rare Earth Elements has Foreign Governments worried
Rare Earth Elements (REE) have become a hot media top with the unofficial Chinese export embargo to Japan.REEs are crucial raw materials for a wide range of industries in the Green and Defense Sectors.The Chinese monopoly over the production and supply of these commodities have made EU and USA thinking of taking the WTO route.However this had not detered China from clamping down on the production and exports.China wants to use these minerals as a strategic resource to force Green companies to relocate to China and transfer hard to get technologies to local Chinese companies.Note while EU and USA are looking to export Green Product to China,the government there has shrewdly only given permissions to companies willing to transfer technology.
Can India take Advantage to become a Leading Supplier
Rare Earth Element Deposits are found in many places in the world but due the Chinese undercutting of prices and lax environmental regulations had all but shuttered every mine in the non-Chinese geographies.Recent Chinese moves have opened up oppurtunities for REE mines as prices have increased by almsot 5-10x in the last few months.Lynas Corp is opening up a mine in Australia while Molycorp is reopening its mine in Mountain Pass,Californa.India also has a long history of production and export of REE . However its production of around 2500 tons is only 2% of the estimated Chinese yearly production of 130,000 tons.
California and the Federal Government have recently approved a number of big Solar Thermal Plants totaling around 2800 MW.These plants utilize Concentrated Solar Thermal (CSP) Technology and uses mirrors and towers instead of normal PV panels.The haste with which these plants are being permitted and approved is mainly due to the expiry of the Treasury Grant Scheme by end of 2010.According the the American Stimulus rules,only Green Projects which have broken ground or spent 5% of their costs would be eligible for the 30% Cash Subsidy.6 Huge Solar Thermal Plants have been approved with the biggest Blythe plant being the most recent.The capital costs for these plants are extremely high at around $6/watt which makes me question their economics.PV panels can be installed at around $3-3.5 /watt which is around 40-50% lower.Despite the higher capacity factors for Solar Thermal Plants and their ability to store energy for a short period,the cost difference is too large.