Cheap access to solar energy stands to reshape the global economy and turn the page on carbon pollution and climate change. Chinese leaders recognize the immense opportunity at hand, and the Chinese solar industry has developed into the world’s largest. The U.S. solar industry is also booming. Yet solar power still accounts for only 1 percent of global electricity production; there is enormous room for continued expansion. What prospects does the future hold for the Chinese and U.S. solar industries? What strategies should the United States pursue to help grow solar globally and to take advantage of this burgeoning field? And how will the new U.S. administration and Congress affect the growth of solar in the United States and around the world?
On March 21, the John L. Thornton China Center at Brookings hosted an event featuring the launch of “The New Solar System,” a major new study from Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, a joint initiative of Stanford’s law and business schools. The result of two years of research, “The New Solar System” illuminates key and little-understood changes that are remaking the solar enterprise in China—and, as a result, solar power around the world. Based on the authors’ analysis, “The New Solar System” recommends changes to U.S. solar policy that would put solar power on a more economically sensible course and would help meet global carbon-reduction goals. Report authors Jeffrey Ball and Dan Reicher presented key findings before engaging in a broader conversation with Brookings Senior Fellow Emeritus Kenneth G. Lieberthal.