Solar power has taken off in the last few years, and it is poised to continue to grow rapidly in the future. China became the world’s largest producer of solar panels during the 2010s, and it is now home to the top five global manufacturers. While Chinese manufacturers undoubtedly learned quickly, they were aided by government subsidies that helped drive down solar prices. There is no doubt that low-cost production in China helped drive solar’s diffusion, but Chinese domination of global supply may have also slowed product innovation and led to technological lock-in that may limit solar’s ultimate contribution to carbon emissions reduction.
What lessons does this history hold for future clean energy innovations, such as direct air capture technology and advanced batteries? ITIF and the Bipartisan Policy Center held an expert panel looking back at the recent past and looking forward to understand what this history may teach us for the future.