Solar photovoltaics stocks in Taiwan surged from 2005 to 2008, making solar PV industry, more precisely, the “silicon-crystalline solar cells manufacturing industry” the hype. However, after the financial crisis in 2008, it later miserably became a bubble. In order to survive, fierce price slaughter, low quality products and unethical competition crowded in the market until 2012.
From the perspective of world supply chain, poly chunk, the upstream raw material, has risen tenfold in four years and dropped back to its original price within a year. In only five years, an emerging industry ran out of its life cycle. Enormous casualties including companies, investors or even governments died in this battle field.
Interestingly, there was one country stay intact, even more, made huge profits from this battle. This country was the United States, which was also the country that caused the financial tsunami.
I entered the U.S. solar market since 2007. At that time, I was too naive to understand why the U.S. invented solar cells, but not interested in producing or applying solar energy. Later, I found that game rules have been set long ago. Countries with different capabilities have different competitiveness and competitive tactics.
The U.S. sit and wait for their prey, the collapse of solar module prices.
During the global financial crisis in 2008, the U.S. purchased a large amount of bad assets and started to build smart grids. In four years, the penetration rate of smart grids in 42 states surpassed 80%. By 2012, the solar energy market in the United States has developed thanks to cheap material costs and the coverage of smart grids.
The story of solar PV industry is just an example to demonstrate why the U.S., the superpower, can always benefit regardless of the situation is.
How about us? What kind of role does Taiwan play in this international competitive game? Are we playing games or being played by games?
In most cases, we play games passively, because we are never a dominate player, only a follower. This is actually a good strategy and we have done pretty well in the past. Taiwan's solar PV industry, however, played a very different game. There are five key factors as follows,
- the market entry timing is early enough
- product technologies and management skills are matured enough
- no government support
- pour of early stage investment
- choose to go global, not local, from the very beginning
Taking the initiative, Taiwan’s solar PV industry chose to go global instead of local, to build its competitive advantage and to succeed. While other countries have their governments to back up their solar PV industry, we are bare handed, without government support, to win our market position.
Ever since 2008, global solar energy market has shuffled greatly. In the R&D and manufacturing field of silicon solar cells, we still take a share in global market so far. I would say unless those companies lose their heads, I believe that Taiwan's global PV position is undefeatable.
“Taking the initiative” can also be applied to the guideline of Taiwan's next step.
There are few industries in Taiwan that have enough advantages and have an opportunity to succeed. It has to be initiated from private sector, away from political intervention, and decide to go global from the very beginning. It allows industry to build its competitive advantage. It's going to be a tough fight, no doubt for that.
To start with, we have to understand ourselves, to clearly understand strengths and weaknesses, then we can fully believe in ourselves. In the meantime, collect information, we can determine where to attack and how to attack. This is , as I call it, to be awake and open up our eyes.
We are no longer in the survival mode. What we need now is to wake up. We need self-awareness and non-stop practice. As long as we can make good progress in this process, there are certainly far more opportunities for us ahead.
As I see it, there is a good industry worth Taiwan to take the initiative: agriculture and aquaculture. (Hereinafter referred to as agriculture)
Crisis of global food shortages and uneven distribution worsen every year, countries in the world needs more food (both qualitatively and quantitatively) and more efficient distribution systems. Conditions of agricultural development in Taiwan are harsh. High temperature, humid environment, high-density cultivation, insufficient scale of the local market, low capital intensity but high labor intensity. Out of difficulties grow miracles, Taiwan has built strong competitive advantages, one of them is package plant export.
Compared with three major agricultural countries Japan, Israel and the Netherlands, Taiwan's agriculture has its own unique characteristics and is also competitive for global market. Our crops are produced in high C / P value way. This is the contribution we can bring to the world. This action requires determination. We should act immediately. Otherwise, we will waste our predecessors result and give up a good opportunity for the next generation.
From the learning of Israel and the Netherland, we can conclude clean and environmentally friendly agricultural production is the future. I believe we can win in one of the sub-sectors - agriculture plus green energy.
We are very good at developing applications of green energy, even we are not green energy country. Taiwan already has a strong ODM, OEM manufacturing ability, together with low cost strategy, we can develop applications in conjunction with agriculture and green energy, and this could be a huge industry.
We have everything we need, technology, global market. We have the ability to set up the rules of the game. It is a profitable and green business. In the past, in order to survive and earn quick money, we pay too little attention and resources in this field. With more resources to input in, I believe Taiwan has a good opportunity to shine in agriculture industry.
GO! Taiwan GO!