EU solar groups lobby for China

More than half a dozen European solar-energy and pro-renewables associations have penned a letter to the EU trade commissioner demanding that no duties be imposed on Chinese PV kit, underscoring the deep and increasingly acrimonious schism between different ends of the supply chain.

The group claims that the companies pushing for the duties – spearheaded by the SolarWorld-backed lobbying group EU ProSun – represent “no more” than 8,700 jobs in Europe, or 3% of the European PV sector.

The group claims that the EU’s decision to begin registering imports of Chinese modules last month – with an eye towards potential retroactive duties – has already had “far-reaching” effects.

In some cases entire PV projects have been put on ice or canceled; in others, importers are being required by customs agents to pony up significant sums of money as guarantees, with a major impact on their business model.

The absence on the letter of the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) – the bloc’s most high-profile solar lobbying group – highlights the rift between Europe’s ailing PV manufacturers and those companies operating further up- and downstream.

Last year Brussels decided to take up investigations into whether Chinese PV manufacturers have dumped product into the EU market or benefited from unfair subsidies at home. A preliminary decision is expected as soon as early June.

The groups that signed the letter say their members include makers of production equipment, suppliers of raw materials, importers, traders, system integrators, contract designers, construction and maintenance specialists, financial investors and logistics companies.

Despite the flood of Chinese modules in recent years, the average EU-content value in a PV system installed in the EU today is 70%, they claim.

“The PV market has very quickly evolved over the last five years whereby PV products became a commodity rather than a high-tech product, much like other electronic products such as mobile telephones,” the letter says.

Duties would also set back grid parity by “at least several years” in Europe, the groups claim.

The signatories include:

Italy’s Gruppo Imprese Fotovoltaiche Italiane (GIFI), the Associazioni di Produttori di Energia Rinnovabile, and the Associazioni Nazionale dell’Industria Fotovoltaica (Assosolare)

The UK's Solar Trade Association (part of the Renewable Energy Association)

Romania’s Association for Green Energy and Sustainable Development

Poland’s Society for Photovoltaics (PV Polska)

The Hungarian Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Association (Magyar Szolár Szövetség)

The Swedish Trade Federation (Svensk Handel)