EU PV group urges tariffs 'no'

More than 1,000 “representatives" of the EU PV industry have sent an open letter to key European Commissioners, arguing that tariffs on Chinese PV kit would, on balance, be damaging to the broader EU solar sector.

The letter, orchestrated by the lobbying group Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), is the latest salvo in the battle over whether Europe will follow the US in imposing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy penalties on China-made PV products.

It comes several months before an initial response from the Commission is expected, and follows closely on the heels of the bankruptcy of Chinese solar giant Suntech and the decision of Germany’s Bosch to exit the PV game, raising tensions even higher.

One of two scenarios will play out if duties are put in place, AFASE says.

Either the Chinese modules coming into Europe will simply be replaced by kit produced in other countries, such as Korea, Taiwan and the US.

Or, more likely, the cost of solar energy will simply be made even more uncompetitive, putting thousands of jobs at risk – particularly in downstream areas such as system integration and installation.

Imposing additional duties would be “in blatant contradition” with the decrease in costs that is needed for the EU solar industry to survive and thrive, the 1,024 signatories claim.

AFASE has been called a “Chinese funded organisation” by EU ProSun, the SolarWorld-led group of European manufacturers lobbying in favour of tariffs.

The letter was signed by employees from a long list of Europe-based companies and organisations – including Enfinity, Juwi, Fronius and the UK’s Renewable Energy Association – as well as by European employees of Chinese firms like Trina, Suntech and Renesola.

Demand for PV in Europe is expected to decrease for at least the next two years, as Asia becomes the world’s largest market.

EU ProSun argues that Chinese companies are only competitive because they have received cheap finance – and, more recently, financial lifelines – from the Chinese government and state-backed banks.

However, AFASE counters that European producers lost their upper hand through strategic blunders, such as signing onto long-term polysilicon contracts at uncompetitive prices.