Module prices rise ahead of EC ruling

The price of solar modules in Europe registered its first monthly up-tick in more than four years in March, as fears of a shortage among developers and installers intensify ahead of an EU ruling on whether to impose tariffs on Chinese modules.

The price of Chinese crystalline silicon modules rose 4% last month, driving up prices across the entire EU marketfor the first time since January 2009, according to market researcher IHS.

Prices are expected to continue rising modestly for the next few months, and may increase up even more dramatically this summer if the EU decides to slap tariffs on PV kit made in China. A preliminary decision on anti-dumping tariffs is expected in early June.

Last month the EU began forcing Chinese suppliers to register their solar kit before importing it into the bloc, a move that would allow tariffs to be imposed retroactively.

In response, some Chinese suppliers have diverted their shipments elsewhere; in other cases, the suppliers are passing on the additional administration costs to the end consumer.

As a result, there is already a “significant” shortage of low-cost modules in emerging markets like Germany and the UK, claims senior IHS analyst Glenn Gu notes

Some in the PV industry warn that the government in countries like the UK have not baked the prospect of rising or stagnant module prices into their subsidy degression programmes.

However, Gu notes that the anti-dumping case is only part of the reason why prices are on the rise.

“Clear signs” of a healthier balance between the global supply and demand of modules are also having an impact, as Asia begins to take up some of the slack left by the soft European market -- offering the first glimpse of a pathway back to profitability for the industry's beleaguered manufacturers.

Global module revenues are predicted to fall 20% to $20.5bn this year on lower average prices, according to Solarbuzz. By 2015, however, they will have recovered to the 2012 level of $25.5bn -- and are expected to hit $32bn by 2017.