EU, China due to discuss PV row

EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht is slated to discuss the PV equipment dispute with Chinese minister of commerce Gao Hucheng on the sidelines of a meeting in Beijing on Friday.

“It is important to underline that the EU's ambition remains to find an amicable solution as soon as possible, but I should also stress that discussions have only just begun and therefore we are still at a very early stage in the negotiation process," EU trade spokesman John Clancy said in a statement.

De Gucht is traveling to Beijing for the annual EU-Joint Committee with China. While the PV dispute will not be discussed within the official framework of the meeting, it is “expected” that the trade commissioner and China’s trade minister “will discuss this issue in the margins of the Joint Committee”, Clancy said.

The European Commission earlier this month imposed temporary anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese PV kit at a reduced, blanket rate of 11.8% for two months.

If negotiations between the bloc and China do not settle the matter, they will ramp-up to the full provisional duty rate averaging 47.6%, and as high as 67.9%, for another four months. The EC will then have to decide whether to make the tariffs permanent.

Analysts are increasingly united in the view that duties, regardless of their strength, will do little to salvage Europe’s battered PV manufacturing sector.

“Obviously, anti-dumping tariffs would be terrible for Chinese producers,” says Jenny Chase, manager of the Solar Insights team at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “But the notion that the tariffs will actually benefit Western producers is, I think, a little bit naïve.”

European manufacturers represented by the SolarWorld-led lobbying group EU ProSun have pushed the anti-dumping case, while companies active in development, EPC or installation have generally opposed the measure.

SolarWorld chief executive Frank Asbeck pulled out of a panel he was slated to speak at on Tuesday at the Intersolar conference, as SolarWorld finalised the details of a rescue package with a Qatari investor.

German renewables developer Juwi says the announcement of duties – in combination with cuts to PV incentives last year – means it will install less than 10MW of PV capacity in Germany this year, compared to about 100MW in 2012.

“The imposition of protective tariffs, no matter how high, is countering all efforts to expand PV to become a cheap building-stone of the energy supply in Germany and Europe,” Christian Hinsch, Juwi’s head of public affairs tells Recharge.

“With protective tariffs PV installations can’t be built profitably any longer in Germany and many other European countries.”