Quantifying the cost savings of global solar photovoltaic supply chains

Globalized supply chain has saved solar installers in the U.S., Germany, and China $67B 2008-2020, and solar prices will be 20-30% higher in 2030 if countries move to produce domestically.

John Paul Helveston

Gang He

Michael R. Davidson


October 26, 2022

Nature December 1, 2022 Issue Cover highlighted our paper in the same issue

Quantifying the cost savings of global solar photovoltaic supply chains
John Paul Helveston, Gang He*, and Michael R. Davidson
Nature (2022)
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05316-6


Achieving carbon neutrality requires deploying renewable energy at unprecedented speed and scale, yet countries sometimes implement policies that increase costs by restricting the free flow of capital, talent and innovation in favour of localizing benefits such as economic growth, employment and trade surpluses. Here we assess the cost savings from a globalized solar photovoltaic (PV) module supply chain. We develop a two-factor learning model using historical capacity, component and input material price data of solar PV deployment in the United States, Germany and China. We estimate that the globalized PV module market has saved PV installers US$24 (19–31) billion in the United States, US$7 (5–9) billion in Germany and US$36 (26–45) billion in China from 2008 to 2020 compared with a counterfactual scenario where domestic manufacturers supply an increasing proportion of installed capacities over a ten-year period. Projecting the same scenario forwards from 2020 results in estimated solar module prices that are approximately 20–30 per cent higher in 2030 compared with a future with globalized supply chains. International climate policy benefits from a globalized low-carbon value chain, and these results point to the need for complementary policies to mitigate welfare distribution effects and potential impacts on technological crowding out.


Award: Integrated Assessment Modeling Consortium 2022 Best Poster Award

Nature Highlights: Climate policy: Solar energy expected to be cheaper through globalization

Joule Preview: The cost of risk mitigation—Diversifying the global solar PV supply chain by Nathan L.Chang, Mohammad Dehghanimadvar, and Renate Egan

Press release: SBU News, GWU News, UCSD News

Coverage: E&E News, GRID News, PV Magazine, dot.LA, pvbuzz, InnovateLongIsland, Mercom India, China News, Science and Technology Daily

Nature Portfolio Chinese summary

Twitter Thread


Here is the poster for IAMC2022 which won the Best Poster Award. The pdf is also available.


Above is the general slides of our paper, I presented it at Tsinghua University. Check the slides in a new tab.


BibTeX citation:
  author = {Paul Helveston, John and He, Gang and R. Davidson, Michael},
  title = {Quantifying the Cost Savings of Global Solar Photovoltaic
    Supply Chains},
  journal = {Nature},
  volume = {612},
  number = {7938},
  pages = {83-87},
  date = {2022-12-01},
  url = {https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-05316-6},
  doi = {10.1038/s41586-022-05316-6},
  langid = {en}
For attribution, please cite this work as:
Paul Helveston, John, Gang He, and Michael R. Davidson. 2022. “Quantifying the Cost Savings of Global Solar Photovoltaic Supply Chains.” Nature 612 (7938): 83–87. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05316-6.