Karla Richter from Hesse wants to do everything right when building a house and has therefore installed a photovoltaic system on her roof.
In doing so, she could "send a double signal," she says: "We have to do something about climate change and against dependence on Russia." The federal government sees it similarly.
After Russia's attack on Ukraine, Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) asserted: "Renewable energies free us from dependencies.
Renewable energies are therefore freedom energies.”
Business correspondent in Berlin
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Economics Minister Robert Habeck is also convinced that Germany should rely more on wind and sun.
This is the only form of energy where no one can say: "I'm blackmailing you with this." The Green Minister's Easter legislative package therefore envisages doubling the share of renewables in electricity consumption to 80 percent by 2030.
In photovoltaics (PV), he wants to quadruple the annual expansion.
But how free are the freedom energies?
How climate friendly are they?
And do they help break the cord of dubious regimes?
Not very, say experts interviewed by the FAZ.
They state that the key material for solar cell production, polysilicon, comes from China.
The most important location is the Xinjiang Autonomous Region in the north-west, where, according to Western beliefs, Beijing oppresses the Uyghurs and other minorities.
Polysilicon production there benefits from forced labor and is also questionable because it uses cheap electricity from coal, says Adrian Zenz, one of the best-known Uyghur researchers: "The supposedly green solar technology relies on a type of energy production that emits a particularly large amount of greenhouse gases." -American anthropologist released the Xinjiang Police Files at the end of May, internal documents on the harassment of Uyghurs in internment camps.
Zenz has found that outside the camps, hundreds of thousands of people participate in a program called Poverty Alleviation Through Labor Transfers, which includes forced labor.
"Most companies in the region that produce metallurgical silicon and polysilicon for the solar industry will benefit from this system," he says.
"It must be clear to us that with the expansion of photovoltaics in its current form, we are promoting oppression, forced labor and the assimilation of the Uyghurs, i.e. the Chinese police state."
Polysilicon comes mainly from China
Zenz believes that the western energy targets are correct, but not the way of implementation.
"It doesn't help the climate if coal is burned in Xinjiang for the German energy transition." Regarding the detachment from Russia, he says: "Since practically the entire solar industry is located in China, we are simply exchanging one autocracy for another when it comes to dependencies." Using polysilicon from Xinjiang is not in line with Western values, with corporate and investor ESG commitments to corporate social responsibility, nor with clean supply chains.
In fact, most of the polysilicon comes from China, with “Solarpoly” for photovoltaic systems making up more than 80 percent.
The market research company Bernreuter Research, which specializes in polysilicon, puts the world market share of the four plants located in Xinjiang at 45 percent.
"In purely mathematical terms, every second solar cell contains polysilicon from Xinjiang," says company owner Johannes Bernreuter.
The market for solar poly has developed strongly in China's favour.
Until around 2004, seven suppliers from the industrialized nations, the so-called “Seven Sisters”, dominated.
A US company was at the top, ahead of Germany's Wacker Chemie.
However, with the concentration of cell production in China, the order got mixed up.
In 2013, in response to punitive PV tariffs in the US, Beijing imposed high import taxes on polysilicon, cutting American suppliers off from their key customers.
The EU, on the other hand, agreed with Beijing on minimum prices, which also applied to polysilicon exports to China.
So Wacker got off lightly and even rose to become the largest manufacturer.
Today, Munich is only fifth, all other “Seven Sisters” have lost their position to the Chinese (see chart).
GCL, Daqo, Xinte and East Hope produce in Xinjiang.Keywords: