The cost of going green is about to become more expensive as polysilicon prices are erupting and will likely remain elevated due to factory shutdowns in China.
Polysilicon is a superrefined form of silicon used in solar panels for its semiconductor-like material properties. Spot prices for polysilicon bottomed at $6.30/kg in mid-2020 and have jumped 600% to $36.09/kg as of last week, according to BloombergNEF.
China is a top producer of polysilicon. The latest factory shutdowns of energy-intensive factories, such as ones that refine silicon, have resulted in declining output that will affect global supply. Countries, in a rush, to greenify their economies are increasing demand for solar panels that are pressuring polysilicon prices higher.
"It's been a very crazy year," Sakura Yamasaki, the Singapore Solar Exchange director, said during a recent Roth Capital Partners webinar. She said polysilicon prices could stabilize in the second quarter of 2022 but thinks prices will continue to increase.
"The ride up is not over," Yamasaki said.
She said the market will remain "chaotic" in 2022 as other costs such as freight and commodities will make the cost of producing solar panels much higher than in previous years.
"There will be no relief in 2022," she said, with the outlook "as crazy as this year."
Perhaps the cost of polysilicon and ultimately solar panels will continue to move higher over the years as Bank of America recently noted: no less than a stunning $150 trillion in new capital investment would be required to reach a "net zero" world over 30 years - equating to some $5 trillion in annual investments - and amounting to twice current global GDP.
The move to a net zero global economy is shockingly expensive. For the US alone, President Biden wants 40% of the US power grid sourcing solar generation by 2035, either a bunch of new polysilicon factories will need to be built, or the cost of going green will be astronomically expensive.
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Future energy costs are indeed the question. In addition to the resource itself and extraction and transportation costs, government climate action will be a huge driver. I know the climate has obviously turned faster than I ever thought it would. Some officials think we ought to do something about it. That something will affect consumer energy cost in a big way.
Cheap fossil fuel prices are a thing of the past. We will be factoring into the cost of fossil fuels the aftermath of burning them.