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Let go of the sun, China | Samsung should thank its chips |

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Today's big stories

  1. A report shows that China’s dominance of solar panel supply is a risky position to be in
  2. Germany’s impending energy crisis could mint winners in the energy industry – Read Now
  3. Samsung gave investors a glimpse of its upcoming results

So Near, Solar

So Near, Solar

What’s Going On Here?

The International Energy Agency (IEA) warned on Thursday that China’s dominance of the solar panel industry could threaten the clean energy transition.

What Does This Mean?

Solar energy is going to be crucial if the world wants to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, and the IEA is predicting that it’s on track to account for a third of global electricity generation by then. But a report published by the agency observes that China’s share of solar panel manufacturing – from key materials to the panels themselves – has now topped 80%, and could climb as high as 95% by 2025 (tweet this). That’s risky: any disruption – not least Covid lockdowns – could put major facilities out of action, push prices up, and ultimately slow down the world’s clean energy transition. We’re already seeing that happen: there’s been a 20% rise in panel prices in the past year alone, partly because of Chinese bottlenecks that have resulted in delays to deliveries across the globe.

Why Should I Care?

The bigger picture: It’s the taking part that counts.
One of the main reasons China has such a big advantage in solar panel manufacturing is because of its much lower energy and labor costs. Most countries won’t be able to match it on that front, but the IEA thinks incentives would still spur more investment in the industry and enable companies to build out alternative supply chains. Europe has even more reason to take action: there are concerns that Russia will turn off the taps to its natural gas completely.

Zooming out: Fool me once…
That’s not the only thing putting climate targets at risk: a collection of airlines have been lobbying for weaker emissions policies, according to a report out this week. This, even though they’ve publicly expressed their full-throated support for governments’ net-zero ambitions. Which begs the question: if we can’t trust faceless corporations that are incentivized by the underpinnings of capitalism to prize profit above literally everything else, who can we trust?

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Analyst Take

The Winners And Losers Of Germany’s Energy Crisis

The Winners And Losers Of Germany’s Energy Crisis
Photo of Reda Farran

Reda Farran, Analyst

Germany’s energy crisis took a turn for the worse last month.

The government raised the country’s gas risk level to the “alarm” phase, with a catalyst on the horizon that could trigger the final “emergency” stage: gas rationing.

Several German officials are worried that Russia could use upcoming maintenance works to turn off the taps for good, leaving Europe’s biggest economy without its main source of gas.

So you should brace for the big consequences for the German economy, as well as the winners that’ll be created in the energy industry.

That’s today’s Insight: the winners and the losers of Germany’s impending energy crisis.

Read or listen to the Insight here

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Ready Salted

Ready Salted

What’s Going On Here?

Electronics and chipmaking giant Samsung gave an encouraging preview of its quarterly results on Thursday.

What Does This Mean?

Samsung isn’t due to report its full results until the end of the month, but it likes to wet investors’ whistles ahead of the big day. And their whistles certainly needed wetting, given that dwindling demand and an oversupply have been causing trouble for the chipmaking industry. But they can put their cynicism to bed: there was still plenty of demand for Samsung’s server chips, as Big Tech hoarded them to meet booming demand for cloud computing. And since chip sales are mostly made in US dollars, the strength of the currency means those sales will have been worth more when converted back into Korean won. That might be why Samsung said it’s expecting overall revenue to have grown 21% last quarter from the same time last year – even as analysts anticipate a steep dropoff in smartphone sales.

Why Should I Care?

For markets: A nice surprise.
Keep in mind that the chip industry isn’t a monolith: analysts have pointed out that particularly acute shortages of certain types of chip could help offset a slowdown in demand elsewhere in the market. And now that Samsung has released such a promising preview, investors might be feeling reassured that the slowdown for tech manufacturers will be less severe than they thought. That could be why they pushed up the share prices of Samsung, SK Hynix, TSMC, and United Microelectronics on Thursday, with the four Asian chipmakers gaining around $30 billion in market value.

Zooming out: Chips or death.
There are signs that the chip supply chain issues might finally have peaked, with data out this week showing that the gap between ordering and delivery fell in June. That’ll be welcome news for companies like Toyota and Apple, which have lost billions of dollars in revenue because they couldn’t get their hands on the chips they needed.

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💬 Quote of the day

“Hope will never be silent.”

– Harvey Milk (an American politician)
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