Fact Sheet: Climate

Sustainably-made American solar panels are better for people and the planet

We need a strong American solar manufacturing industry to address the climate crisis.

The Inflation Reduction Act made historic investments in domestic clean energy manufacturing, because building solar here means we will reach our climate goals faster while protecting American jobs, ensuring fair prices, deploying on schedule, and fostering a strong American solar industry for generations to come.

Manufacturing solar in America will help us hit our climate goals faster.

China’s near monopoly on solar manufacturing presents a significant climate challenge. Chinese solar products come with a far higher carbon footprint because their factories are powered largely by coal. U.S. solar products have a much lower carbon footprint, with factories utilizing lower carbon and renewable sources of electricity.

  • The monopoly China has on solar manufacturing is a climate problem. According to the Clean Energy Buyers Institute, global climate emissions from solar manufacturing could be neck and neck with aluminum by 2030, surpassing aluminum climate emissions by 2040. Solar is a more sustainable product and should be favored.
  • A Cornell University study found that onshoring the solar supply chain could cut 30% of global solar manufacturing emissions and cut 13% in global energy consumption from panel production.
  • The most energy intensive parts of a solar panel – polysilicon and wafers – are largely made in China. Right now, Chinese-owned companies’ dominance over the market is huge – 99% of wafers, 80% of cells, and 90% of polysilicon are made by China-connected companies. Polysilicon and wafers are key ingredients in 95% of all solar panels installed in the world.

Onshoring the solar supply chain is critical to building a just and equitable clean energy economy.

U.S. environmental and labor protections ensure people are paid a living wage and work safely on the job. U.S. environmental laws ensure industry operates responsibly with our natural resources. Chinese-owned solar manufacturers, on the other hand, have a long history of using forced labor and perpetuating environmental injustice in the production of solar cells and panels. In December 2021, Congress passed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act near-unanimously and with strong bipartisan support to prevent imports of goods produced with forced labor made materials. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have stopped $3.17 billion worth of imports since the law went into effect. In 2022 alone, CBP stopped 2 GW of Chinese-made solar panels totaling nearly $710 million.

  • Environmental Injustice: In the regions of China where polysilicon refining is concentrated, coal accounts for the vast majority of power generation. A recent study attributed elevated death rates to ambient particulate matter pollution in these areas.

America should not leave our clean energy future in the hands of another country.

Right now, we are over reliant on Chinese-headquartered companies to achieve our clean energy goals. This leaves us vulnerable to supply chain disruptions created by natural disasters, pandemics, global conflict, bridge collapses, and more. If U.S. customers can’t get solar panels because of issues abroad, we can’t develop solar at the pace needed to cut climate emissions at scale. Having a strong domestic industry to support deployment is critical to meeting those development goals.

Clean energy manufacturing is key to overcoming differences around climate politics.

Clean energy manufacturing jobs are widely supported across the political spectrum and are critical to both protecting and building onto the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). For example, most solar manufacturing commitments are planned for states led by Republican governors, who have invested a lot to attract those jobs.

  • One of the main selling points of the IRA was that it would create a manufacturing renaissance in the U.S.; that we would not just deploy more green energy, but that we would make it here.
  • If we continue to allow Chinese companies to completely dominate clean energy manufacturing, opponents will characterize the IRA as a giveaway to China.
  • Instead, we have the opportunity to reshore American solar production and create thousands upon thousands of manufacturing jobs in conservative parts of the country.
  • Creating a rural, conservative constituency for the IRA can guarantee its longevity.