Silicon – towards a shortage of an abundant metalloid
Question for written answer E-005540/2021
to the Commission
Annika Bruna (ID), Elena Lizzi (ID), Gianantonio Da Re (ID), Ioannis Lagos (NI), Elżbieta Kruk (ECR), Javier Nart (Renew)
Silicon, a metalloid used in the manufacture of electronic chips, glass and solar panels, is the most abundant element on Earth after oxygen (28 % of the earth’s crust).
Nevertheless, its price has recently increased by 300 %, as it is mainly extracted in China, a country affected by a major energy crisis. Cutting the rock to extract silicon is very energy-intensive.
The rise in the price of coal and gas, combined with a reduced output from hydroelectric dams, has led to energy rationing in Chinese silicon mines. This, in turn, has resulted in higher prices for silicon and hence for photovoltaic panels.
In addition, there is the significant human and ecological cost of silicon purification: the process involves chlorine, acids and various solvents which contaminate air, water and soil, endangering employees and local populations.
- 1.What action is the European Commission taking to equip the European Union with its own more environmentally-friendly silicon extraction industry in order to reduce its dependence on imports?
- 2.Does the EU have sufficient recycling capacity to recycle silicon from solar panels and electronic chips?