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400 EU firms call for end of China PV trade measures

SolarPower Europe and 403 companies from all EU member states have launched a new push for the lifting of the minimum import price (MIP), anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures from China imposed by the European Union.

The companies signed an open letter saying the measures are having the unforeseen consequence of negatively impacting the entire European solar value chain to the detriment of jobs, investment and solar deployment in Europe.

"The measures have not achieved the objectives that were set for them. There has been no increase in module manufacturing or cell production in Europe during the period of the measures," SPE chief executive James Watson told Recharge.

"Conversely, the measures have also been applied during the period when jobs have been lost in all other upstream segments of the solar value chain in Europe," he said, citing job losses in segments such poly-silicon, electronics or steel.

Europe’s share in the global PV market is shrinking despite a world-wide boom, the companies' letter stressed, adding that instead of the anti-dumping action, the sector needs measures to boost demand.

Through "artificially high” module prices companies suffer from a dual impact of higher prices and the impact these prices have on demand, the statement says, claiming that the EU measures add €100,000 ($110,000) of cost to PV installations of about 10MW and above.

SPE together with 36 national solar associations today also has updated a letter to European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström to lobby for an end to what it calls “the largest trade defence case that the EU is prosecuting against China.”

Germany’s powerful solar federation BSW, however, is not part of the initiative. The BSW traditionally has kept neutral in the anti-dumping dispute as it represents both panel manufacturers and companies in the solar downstream business such as developers and installers.

“We hope for a mutual normalisation of trade relationships with China. Due to strongly divergent interests in the sector and thus in our membership, we have always kept neutral in the customs issue,” BSW managing director Carsten Körnig told Recharge.

“The BSW supports free trade according to WTO rules in order to safeguard fair competition, the variety of products, technological progress and sustainable growth.”

Europe's solar sector is deeply divided on the anti-dumping issue, with many of the remaining panel manufacturers, led by Germany's SolarWorld and lobby group EU ProSun, favouring measures against Chinese products, while most installers, project developers and equipment makers, and SPE oppose them.

“A free market is only possible with fair competition,” said EU Pro Sun head Milan Nitzschke, who is also vice president at SolarWorld.

“We are living through a second global dumping wave right now after China has slowed down its home market and started the greatest clearance sale overseas. The European industry that just had started to invest in new capacity again now is forced into layoffs again. So it is even more important to continue the anti-dumping measures and make them more efficient.”

The pressure from Chinese products pushing into the EU market according to industry experts has increased after China has curbed licenses for new PV installations at home until year-end due to grid bottlenecks after the country already has overshot its 18.1GW expansion target for 2016.

China according to local media also mulls steep cuts to solar support next year.

The European Commission currently is carrying out an ‘expiry review’ and it must decide on scrapping or continuing the anti-dumping measures by March 7 next year, but according to observers may take a decision before year-end already.

The SPE believes there will be at least 15 member states opposed to the continuing of the anti-dumping measures.

"If that is achieved, that means there would be a possibility to appeal any suggestion by the Commission to extend the measure," Watson says, but added that the SPE still doesn't know exactly what Germany's position is.

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