Top 10 Polysilicon Rankings for 2020- The Future To be 90 Percent China

German research firm Bernreuter research has released its latest ranking of Polysilicon manufacturers, and the prognosis for non-Chinese manufacturers is not good.

The firm predicts that the world’s four largest polysilicon manufacturers in 2022 will all be based in China.

in 2020, Wacker Chemie, the German firm which was actually no. 1 till 2019, lost its leadership position to China’s Tongwei, which has moved up from no. 9 rank in 2016.  With three pro­duction locations in Sichuan province, Inner Mongolia and Yunnan province, Tongwei will reach a total capacity of nearly 200,000 metric tons (MT) by the end of this year and a likely 300,000 MT in 2023.

Following Wacker in  3rd spot is Daqo New Energy, which ousted Korea’s OCI from the third place. After shutting down its solar-grade polysilicon operations in South Korea last year, OCI dropped to number seven in the ranking.

In 2022, Wacker will fall to number five, but remain the largest producer of electronic-grade polysilicon for the semiconductor industry and is aiming to gain further market share in this smaller segment. Wacker has taken a conscious call to focus on this segment, rather than solar grade polysilicon, which has become intensely competitive thanks to the Chinese ramp up. Bernreuter predicts Chinese origin market share to tip 90 percent in the coming years.

Three aspirants for the top four spots in 2022 after Tongwei– GCL-Poly, Daqo and Xinte Energy – are running factories with very low-cost electricity from coal-fired power plants in the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region in northwestern China.

Amzingly, till 2005, when solar finally attracted focused attention from Chinese policymakers and manufacturers, the global polysilicon industry wore a completely different look.

An oligopoly of only seven companies ruled, known as the “Seven Sisters”.

  • Hemlock Semiconductor (USA)
  • Wacker Chemie (Germany)
  • Advanced Silicon Materials (Now REC Silicon/USA)
  • Tokuyama Corporation (Japan)
  • MEMC Electronic Materials (USA and Italy)
  • Mitsubishi Materials (Japan and USA) and
  • Osaka Titanium Technologies (formerly Sumitomo Titanium/Japan).

These firms had ten  polysilicon plants across  the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. Global capacity till 2004 was a small 29,500 MT tonnes.  With almost none in China. The sole Chinese player, Emei, had a paltry 100 MT plant in China. From then, to now, has been a long, painful journey of being toppled for the erstwhile titans, as the new Champions from China stepped in.

The Top 10 in 2020

Global Polysilicon Leaders

Spot The Dragons

“These reports should be a wake-up call for western governments. If their countries don’t want to become almost completely dependent on solar products from China for the transition to renewable energy, they have to implement an effective and long overdue industrial policy for a non-Chinese solar supply chain, in particular for ingot and wafer manufacturing,” comments Bernreuter, the eponymous founder of the research firm.  “Low-cost and renewable hydropower in the northwestern USA, Canada, Norway and Malaysia offers them the chance to fuel an alternative supply chain without forced labor and a high carbon footprint.”

Notably, Bernreuter hasn’t mentioned India as a potential  source for sourcing polysilicon, something that tels us about perception of manufacturing environment here. Keep in mind that in the coming few years, India has every chance of staying power surplus, even as it adds more renewable energy to the grid  and goes slow on thermal expansion.

the Chinese domination of polysilicon and ingot production also underlines the risks for domestic manufacturers striving for greater cell and module production, as they will remain dependent on imports for critical components. Something a few have highlighted too, with Waaree energy’s Hitesh Doshi even calling it delusional to expect success on our current approach, as seen in recent volatility in polysilicon prices too.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International