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Chinese manufacturer to face EU PV dumping case 'within weeks’

Solarworld chief executive Frank Asbeck says an anti-dumping case will be brought against a Chinese PV manufacturer within weeks in the EU, as the company confirmed it would shed German workers.

Emboldened by a preliminary decision by the US Department of Commerce in mid-May to impose anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese companies — a case driven by SolarWorld’s US subsidiary — Asbeck reaffirmed his plan to open a second, European front in the legal battle.

While SolarWorld has not ruled out filing a complaint itself, Asbeck has made it clear that his preference is for the European Commission or perhaps the German government to initiate the proceedings.

Asbeck says he is “confident” legal action will be taken against the Chinese in Europe by the end of June, either by SolarWorld, the commission or an EU member state, with “first results” handed down as early as next spring. The political appetite for such a move has grown in recent months in Berlin as the roster of once-mighty German PV manufacturers mired in bankruptcy has grown.

Last week, insolvent building-integrated specialist Odersun announced that, with no buyer in sight, it had no alternative but to close, with the lose of 260 jobs.

In light of the US ruling, the German government is being forced to walk a fine line — between taking legal measures to protect the country’s indigenous PV manufacturers and encouraging Chinese firms to acquire insolvent but technology- and brand-rich companies.

It must also take into account thousands of downstream solar workers in Germany, such as project developers and installers, who benefit from cheaper PV components and are opposed to legal action against the Chinese.

New Environment Minister Peter Altmaier recently confirmed to local journalists that the German government may file the trade complaint instead of SolarWorld.

One industry source tells Recharge that SolarWorld will have to pursue the case regardless of Berlin’s decision.

“They’ve been talking about this so loudly and for so long, they no longer have the option of backing away,” he says.

The issue has split the European PV sector, with the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) having made clear its intention to remain above the fray, counter to SolarWorld’s wishes.

The EPIA says if evidence of dumping is proved, then “the law should be respected”.

“However, there are usually no ultimate winners in a trade war,” the group notes.

“In a globalised world, trade actions can have many consequences across borders and along value chains.”

Amid its ever-louder war cries, SolarWorld defended its decision to axe 250-300 jobs at its wafer and module facilities in Germany — approximately 10% of its global workforce — saying that many of the cuts will be voluntary, with some temporary workers being made redundant.

None of the company’s 1,000 workers based in the US state of Oregon will lose their jobs.

Nearly all European PV manufacturers have reduced their staff numbers over the past two years as they struggle to remain competitive.

Unlike most of its European peers, however, SolarWorld remains a profitable company, with a net income of €7.2m ($9m) in the first quarter of the year.