The uncomfortable choice with solar power and raw material sourcing – by Chris Berry ( – June 8, 2015)

Chris is a well-known writer, speaker, and analyst. He is the co-author of The Disruptive Discoveries Journal ( and focuses much of his time on energy metals – those metals or minerals used in the generation or storage of energy.

Despite the hope and promise that solar power holds out as a cleaner source of long-term electricity generation, it is not without its problems. As the price of solar power continues to fall based on increased scale of production and innovation, these advances are underpinned by something often overlooked – a reliable source of raw materials.

When you’re using your computer or phone, do you ever stop and think about the source of the minerals and materials which provide the technology we often take for granted? So it is with solar power.

Every day we open the newspaper and read an article about another consumer or business adopting solar technology based on increasingly competitive economics. But how are these economics achieved? This is an often overlooked question and has recently become more important.

In recent years, China, the “workshop of the world”, has offered low labour costs (though this is changing) and raw materials for high-value products have been sourced from Asia and Africa, in particular – areas with relatively lax environmental standards.

Increased awareness of the human toll of this business model has led to legislation aimed at forcing companies to alter their business models and ensure raw materials are sourced and produced to the highest possible standard.

One such notable example is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Specifically, Section 1502 states that companies that report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and produce goods that utilise tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold are required to list the due diligence procedures they have in place to determine whether or not the source of the minerals is the Congo or a neighbouring country.

Here is some more detail from Ernst & Young:

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