China’s Spending on Green Energy Is Causing a Global Glut

China’s newest solar-energy manufacturers include a dairy farmer and a toy maker.

The new entrants are examples of a green-energy spending binge in China that is fueling the country’s rapid build-out of renewable energy while also creating a glut of solar components that is rippling through the industry and stymying attempts to build such manufacturing elsewhere, particularly in Europe.

Since the start of the year, prices for Chinese polysilicon, the building block of solar panels, are down 50% and panels down 40%, according to data tracker OPIS, which is owned by Dow Jones. Inside China, some companies fear a green bubble is about to pop.

China’s state-guided economy spent nearly $80 billion on clean-energy manufacturing last year, around 90% of all such investment worldwide, BloombergNEF estimates. The country’s annual spending on green energy overall has increased by more than $180 billion a year since 2019, the International Energy Agency says. The rush of funding has attracted an unusual array of companies to the bustling business.

Last summer, Chinese dairy giant Royal Group 002329 1.28%increase; green up pointing triangle unveiled plans for three new projects. There was a farm with 10,000 milk cows, a dairy processing plant and a $1.5 billion factory to make solar cells and panels.

“The solar industry is improving over the long term, and the market potential is huge,” Royal Group wrote in a document outlining the project last year. More recently, Royal Group said it wants to create synergies between its core agricultural business and photovoltaics, “and promote solar technology to empower dairy owners to reduce costs and increase efficiency,” the company said in a response to The Wall Street Journal.

The milk manufacturer wasn’t alone in jumping on China’s solar bandwagon in the past two years. Other newbies include a jewelry chain, a producer of pollution-control equipment and a pharmaceutical company.

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