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Visualizing China’s Dominance in the Solar Panel Supply Chain

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visualization of global solar pv panel manufacturing capacity by country/region.

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China’s Dominance in the Solar Panel Supply Chain

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Many governments are investing in renewable energy sources like solar power, but who controls the manufacturing of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels?

As it turns out, China owns the vast majority of the world’s solar panel supply chain, controlling at least 75% of every single key stage of solar photovoltaic panel manufacturing and processing.

This visualization shows the shares held by different countries and regions of the key stages of solar panel manufacturing, using data from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Solar Panel Manufacturing, by Country and Stage

From polysilicon production to soldering finished solar cells and modules onto panels, China has the largest share in every stage of solar panel manufacturing.

Even back in 2010, the country made the majority of the world’s solar panels, but over the past 12 years, its average share of the solar panel supply chain has gone from 55% to 84%.

China also continues to lead in terms of investment, making up almost two-thirds of global large-scale solar investment. In the first half of 2022, the country invested $41 billion, a 173% increase from the year before.

Country/RegionSolar Panel DemandAverage Share of Solar Panel Manufacturing Capacity
China36.4%84.0%
Europe16.8%2.9%
North America17.6%2.8%
Asia-Pacific13.2%9.1%
India6.9%1.3%
Rest of the World9.1%0.8%

Source: IEA
Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

After China, the next leading nation in solar panel manufacturing is India, which makes up almost 3% of solar module manufacturing and 1% of cell manufacturing. To help meet the country’s goal of 280 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar power capacity by 2030 (currently 57.9 GW), in 2022 the Indian government allocated an additional $2.6 billion to its production-linked incentive scheme that supports domestic solar PV panel manufacturing.

Alongside China and India, the Asia-Pacific region also makes up significant amounts of solar panel manufacturing, especially modules and cells at 15.4% and 12.4% respectively.

While Europe and North America make up more than one-third of the global demand for solar panels, both regions make up an average of just under 3% each across all stages of actually manufacturing solar panels.

Too Little Too Late to Diversify?

China’s dominance of solar photovoltaic panel manufacturing is not the only stranglehold the country has on renewable energy infrastructure and materials.

When it comes to wind, in 2021 China built more offshore wind turbines than all other countries combined over the past five years, and the country is also the leading producer and processor of the rare earth minerals essential for the magnets that power turbine generators.

In its full report on solar panel manufacturing, the IEA emphasized the importance of distributing global solar panel manufacturing capacity. Recent unexpected manufacturing halts in China have resulted in the price of polysilicon rising to 10-year highs, revealing the world’s dependence on China for the supply of key materials.

As the world builds out its solar and wind energy capacity, will it manage to avoid repeating Europe’s mistakes of energy import overdependence when it comes to the materials and manufacturing of renewable energy infrastructure?

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Energy

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium reserves by country, with 3 countries accounting for more than half of total reserves.

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A cropped chart visualizing the distribution of the global uranium reserves, by country.

Charted: Global Uranium Reserves, by Country

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There can be a tendency to believe that uranium deposits are scarce from the critical role it plays in generating nuclear energy, along with all the costs and consequences related to the field.

But uranium is actually fairly plentiful: it’s more abundant than gold and silver, for example, and about as present as tin in the Earth’s crust.

We visualize the distribution of the world’s uranium resources by country, as of 2021. Figures come from the World Nuclear Association, last updated on August 2023.

Ranked: Uranium Reserves By Country (2021)

Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada have the largest shares of available uranium resources—accounting for more than 50% of total global reserves.

But within these three, Australia is the clear standout, with more than 1.7 million tonnes of uranium discovered (28% of the world’s reserves) currently. Its Olympic Dam mine, located about 600 kilometers north of Adelaide, is the the largest single deposit of uranium in the world—and also, interestingly, the fourth largest copper deposit.

Despite this, Australia is only the fourth biggest uranium producer currently, and ranks fifth for all-time uranium production.

CountryShare of Global
Reserves
Uranium Reserves (Tonnes)
🇦🇺 Australia28%1.7M
🇰🇿 Kazakhstan13%815K
🇨🇦 Canada10%589K
🇷🇺 Russia8%481K
🇳🇦 Namibia8%470K
🇿🇦 South Africa5%321K
🇧🇷 Brazil5%311K
🇳🇪 Niger5%277K
🇨🇳 China4%224K
🇲🇳 Mongolia2%145K
🇺🇿 Uzbekistan2%131K
🇺🇦 Ukraine2%107K
🌍 Rest of World9%524K
Total100%6M

Figures are rounded.

Outside the top three, Russia and Namibia both have roughly the same amount of uranium reserves: about 8% each, which works out to roughly 470,000 tonnes.

South Africa, Brazil, and Niger all have 5% each of the world’s total deposits as well.

China completes the top 10, with a 3% share of uranium reserves, or about 224,000 tonnes.

A caveat to this is that current data is based on known uranium reserves that are capable of being mined economically. The total amount of the world’s uranium is not known exactly—and new deposits can be found all the time. In fact the world’s known uranium reserves increased by about 25% in the last decade alone, thanks to better technology that improves exploration efforts.

Meanwhile, not all uranium deposits are equal. For example, in the aforementioned Olympic Dam, uranium is recovered as a byproduct of copper mining occurring at the same site. In South Africa, it emerges as a byproduct during treatment of ores in the gold mining process. Orebodies with high concentrations of two substances can increase margins, as costs can be shared for two different products.

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