EGEB: This Chinese coal company is going big on solar

  • Shanxi Coal International Energy Group is making a big investment in solar manufacturing.
  • What happens to solar panels when they stop working?
  • Denmark works with Vietnam to develop an efficient energy plan.
  • Arcadia Power is committed to making clean energy work for the planet and your bank account — all without changing your utility company. Sign up to receive your $20 Amazon Gift Card.

China’s coal and solar

The Chinese state-owned company Shanxi Coal International Energy Group is making a big investment in solar manufacturing. Shanxi will lead a joint venture to build a 3-gigawatt solar manufacturing plant for 3.19 billion yuan ($461 million). The project will grow to 10 gigawatts.

Shanxi Coal will own an 88.5% stake in the venture, Shanxi Coal International Photovoltaic Power Technology. It says it’s made this move into solar to “help with the province’s energy transition and meet the need for state firms to get behind strategic emerging industries,” according to Bloomberg Green.

Ironically, China leads the world in the production of both coal and solar — it’s the largest producer and buyer of solar panels. But it refuses to give up coal because of energy demand and employment. China’s industrial sector is by far the largest consumer of coal.

Solar panels: What’s the afterlife?

Grist recently asked the pertinent question: Where do solar panels go when they die?

By 2050, the International Renewable Energy Agency projects that up to 78 million metric tons of solar panels will have reached the end of their life, and that the world will be generating about 6 million metric tons of new solar e-waste annually. 

So clearly we need a plan, and silver and silicon need to be recovered from the panels, because they’re valuable. Plus, the panels have lead in them, so it would be a terrible thing if they ended up in landfills.

Currently, here’s the situation globally: In the EU, producers are required to ensure their solar panels are recycled properly. In Japan, India, and Australia, they’re coming up with a recycling plan. And in the US, with the exception of a state law in Washington, there’s no plan. Nothing.

So how is this problem solved? Grist writes:

For the solar recycling industry to grow sustainably, it will ultimately need supportive policies and regulations. The EU model of having producers finance the takeback and recycling of solar panels might be a good one for the US to emulate. But before that’s going to happen, US lawmakers need to recognize that the problem exists and is only getting bigger. 

Vietnamese energy efficiency, Danish style

Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, with the help of the Danish Energy Partnership Program, has issued guidelines for the planning of efficient energy use from 2020 to 2025 at the city and provincial level.

According to, the guidelines “aim to help Vietnam’s 63 cities and provinces record energy use and develop local action plans for the economical and efficient consumption of energy.

“Danish experts have recommended that Vietnam reduce coal consumption, increase the use of energy-efficient generation, and support large-scale energy-saving investment projects.”

In 2013, the Vietnamese and Danish Governments signed long-term cooperation agreements on energy. In 2017, the countries published their first Vietnam Energy Outlook Report.

Vietnam made a big push for expanding solar in 2019. The country went from 10 MW of operational solar PV to 4 GW in a year.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.