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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Sustainability Analysis of Solar PV Industry in China

Kan Wang

Sustainability Analysis of Solar PV Industry in China


Climate change, fossil fuel scarcity and security of supply have been increasingly threatening the human energy demand. As by far the largest energy resource available on earth, the deployment of solar PV is playing a crucial role in tackling these problems. Over the past decade, the PV market has experienced unprecedented growth through the world. Benefiting from the strong demand in the global PV market, the China PV industry has experienced a surge since 2004. Today, China is the world’s top producer of PV cells and modules, having a market share of over 50%. However, under the rapid development, there has been increasing concerns about the sustainability of this industry.

This research aims to understand the complexity of the context of China’s PV industry and to give a detailed study of the identified key issues that are essential in determining the sustainability of this industry. For the environmental issue, an investigation is conducted to find out the current situation of environmental problems in polysilicon manufacturing. And for the energy issue, lifecycle energy consumption is calculated followed by the EPBT, an indicator measuring the time in which the energy input during the module lifecycle is compensated by electricity generated by the PV modules. For the economic issue, an analysis of investment profitability is conducted to measure whether the newly-introduced nationwide FIT policy is economically sustainable. Finally, conclusions are given as well as the limitations and recommendations of this research.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.