Now Is Our Moment To Create a Resilient, Equitable, Environmentally Sustainable Solar Supply Chain - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Procurement, Industrial  -  July 22, 2022 - By AB Ghosh, Hemlock Semiconductor

Now Is Our Moment To Create a Resilient, Equitable, Environmentally Sustainable Solar Supply Chain

Clean energy procurement now means focusing on resilience, prioritizing community stakeholder needs, and optimizing carbon impact. Energy customers like Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC) have an opportunity and obligation to lead in this evolved energy market, using our collective buying power to achieve a 90 percent carbon-free U.S. electricity system by 2030.

This task is monumental, and many steps come before we can claim success. But imagine for a moment what success looks like. Imagine that renewables are created exclusively with low-carbon energy. Imagine that every displaced fossil fuel worker has a path to a good-paying clean energy job. Imagine that our nation is one of many responsible for resilient, ethical solar supply chains. Imagine that the partners you rely on are just as concerned about Scope 3 emissions as you are. Imagine that clean energy procurement decisions are so powerful that they literally create a resilient, equitable, and environmentally sustainable economy. We are working day and night to make this future our reality.

Hyper-pure polysilicon is a foundational building block in three industries critical to a low-carbon energy system: semiconductors, solar power, and the emerging battery storage industry. Our polysilicon can be found in literally billions of consumer electronic devices around the world, from the smartphones in your hands to the brains inside cars and rocket ships. Today, HSC is building on 60 years of experience to serve as a vital supplier to the solar power industry.

In short, silicon connects and energizes the world, and is fundamental to the clean energy economy and imperative for cleaner solar.

Solar is the fastest growing electricity source in the U.S. and the cheapest form of new electricity capacity worldwide. But not all solar panels are created equal, and U.S.-made polysilicon has an imperative role to play in decarbonizing and de-risking the solar supply chain.

Supply chains matter as we speed the energy transition. The source of the silicon going into our solar panels matters. We see a future where U.S.-made polysilicon enables the 21st-century economy, an economy that is more resilient, equitable, and environmentally sustainable.

With the increasing risk that extreme weather events and geopolitics pose to energy infrastructure, energy customers must consider resilience as a fundamental component of clean energy procurement. We are witnessing an urgent groundswell of demand for a secure and reliable domestic solar supply chain. That is because the solar industry is experiencing very real supply risk as trade issues play out. Working together, energy customers can signal to the market that we need to create a more resilient solar supply chain in the United States. There is a solar value chain already in existence domestically, we are just missing key pieces. The good news is that the pieces of the chain that demand the largest capital investments are already in place. As the only producer of polysilicon headquartered in the United States, HSC leads the front of the domestic solar supply chain, and we are fully committed to the build out of American solar. Because how we manufacture renewables matters.

In terms of equity, careers with clean energy manufacturers like HSC can provide a just transition for fossil fuel workers. As jobs in the fossil fuel industries decline, it is incumbent upon those speeding the transition to ensure the workers that built our modern economy find lasting and expansive careers. HSC is the refinery of the 21st century, and fossil workers can find a home here with competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and a safe and rewarding work environment.

When it comes to environmental sustainability, we are fortunate that one of our primary markets is a fundamentally sustainable product—solar power. But just making a key ingredient of solar panels isn’t enough. We’ve found that “embodied carbon”—the carbon emissions associated with the manufacture of a product—is fast becoming a critical assessment in the overall sustainability of a product. This fact drove us to cut energy waste at every turn of our manufacturing process and to use the cleanest energy sources we can access. HSC is, after all, Michigan’s largest energy consumer. Now we’re working with our suppliers and customers as true partners to remove supply chain carbon emissions. The result is that our polysilicon facilitates the production of ultra-low-carbon solar panels—allowing solar developers and owners to reduce embodied carbon by up to 50 percent.

This is the critical moment when we can leverage our buying power and create the future we want to see. The solar industry installed nearly 2 gigawatts of capacity worldwide in 2005. In 2020, the global industry installed 200 gigawatts. This is a remarkable accomplishment. But building out all these installations was accomplished by foreign, high-carbon manufacturing. Solar installations are expected to more than triple again in the next decade. More manufacturing will be needed to support this growth. This is our incredible opportunity. We’re talking about decarbonizing an industry where the capacity does not exist today. In this current moment, with so much solar manufacturing capacity set to be built over the next 10 years, we have the power to decarbonize an industry as it massively scales up. Though if we continue with the status quo for solar deployment, embodied emissions from solar manufacturing will go from .3 to 2 gigatons per year by 2040, putting solar on par with the aluminum industry. 

We have the power to decide where the next tranche of investment for solar manufacturing facilities goes based on our collective buying power. Do we take this moment to do it right and create a resilient, equitable, and environmentally sustainable solar supply chain? If done correctly, we can send a market signal to reduce risk, lift up workers and promote cleaner solar.

The choice is ours.

 

AB Ghosh is Chairman and CEO of Hemlock Semiconductor (HSC). AB is responsible for driving business and technology initiatives that grow the company while building upon its pioneering leadership in polysilicon technology. With his deep expertise in chemical manufacturing and global business and commercial leadership, AB leads the HSC team to enhance the company’s ability to provide customers around the globe with the hyper-pure polysilicon used in the semiconductor and solar energy industries. Since 2018, the amount of solar-grade polysilicon sold by HSC translated to enough clean energy to power more than 2 million homes.


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