SolarWorld hails French FIT bonus

Germany’s SolarWorld says it has become the first PV manufacturer to receive full certification for France’s controversial “Made in Europe” feed-in tariff (FIT) bonus.

As part of a broader solar rethink, the French government in January confirmed it would offer as much as a 10% bonus on the standard FIT rates for PV projects that employ kit manufactured in the European Economic Area – comprising the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

France’s Ministry of the Environment offers a 5% bonus each for wafers made in the EEA, cells made in the EEA, or modules assembled and tested in the EEA – up to a 10% maximum.

SolarWorld, which is at the centre of the trade war engulfing the global PV industry, says the certification institute Certisolis has confirmed that its production facility in Freiburg covers the value chain from wafers through modules.

“We are proud to be the first PV manufacturer to offer products eligible for the full bonus,” says SolarWorld chief executive Frank Asbeck.

SolarWorld Industries America filed anti-dumping and countervailing complaints with the US Department of Commerce, which imposed tariffs of at least 34% on most modules made with Chinese crystalline silicon cells last October.

Last summer, the SolarWorld-led lobbying group EU ProSun lodged even broader complaints with the European Commission, which is due to make a final ruling by the end of 2013.

In a bid to bolster their own flagging domestic PV sectors, Italy and France have implemented “Made in EU” bonuses within their FIT schemes in recent years.

While they have failed to elicit the same ire as Ontario’s local-content rules – recently condemned by the World Trade Organisation – the French and Italian bonuses are seen by observers as further fuel to the flames of solar industry protectionism, a game which has spread to India, South Africa and a number of key emerging markets.

As part of its January announcement, France doubled its 2013 solar target to 1GW and laid out the ground rules for the next tender round for large projects.