The Environment Agency of Iceland has shut down the United Silicon factory in Helguvík—which provides materials necessary for the construction of solar panels.
The decision was made in response to scandal plagued months for the company, with it being accused of having a dangerous impact on the health and safety of locals. The shutdown follows growing worries that Iceland will fail to meet its Paris Agreement obligations.
Failing to meet the Paris Agreement
The halt to silicon production comes on the back of a report commissioned by the Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources, Björt Ólafsdóttir, regarding Iceland’s environmental footprint. Björt is particularly concerned with high emission levels that pollute the environment, and can cause a rise in global temperatures. In spite of the extensive availability of renewable energy sources, she is convinced Iceland is far off meeting the goals set by the 2016 Paris Agreement.
Despite Iceland’s reputation as a green country, its carbon footprint per capita is close to twice that of the EU countries. In 2015, carbon emissions per Icelander were 10.2 tonnes, compared to 5.8 per EU citizen.
In accordance with the Paris Agreement, Iceland has pledged to 40% decrease in emissions by 2030, but according to a recent report by the Institute of Economic Studies at the University of Iceland, emissions are actually set to increase 53-99% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
The two sides of the coin
Solar panels have already been proven to be a great source of renewable energy. The panels, however, come at a cost. Factories like United Silicon, which provide materials to the solar industry, have in fact been accused of being a major factor in the rising levels of emissions in Iceland.
The impact it has on locals’ health and safety has also been substantial. Reports of fumes and vile smells emanating from the factory in Gríndavík have caused the scandal that ultimately convinced The Environment Agency of Iceland to make its move. The agency has attributed the causes to the low operating time of the furnaces, which has caused malfunctions and overheating of equipment.
Investigations have already begun, but no major deficiencies have been found as of yet, with the next step will consist of checking the infamous furnaces. It’s still unclear, however, when the inquiry will take place. The agency is in fact refusing to provide a license to turn on the furnaces until the area will be under optimal weather conditions, in order to avoid more contamination and disturbances to local municipalities.
United Silicon has rejected any of the accusation thrown at them. Instead, they encourage the agency to begin its inspection as soon as possible.