Minimum price agreement 'dead' as SPE urges PV industrial strategy

The minimum import price (MIP) agreement on PV modules struck between the EU and China is “dead” following the departure of a string of Chinese OEM heavyweights, the CEO of industry body SolarPower Europe (SPE) told Recharge.

James Watson’s comments came the day after JA Solar became the latest major Chinese module producer to claim the arrangement no longer reflected the reality of falling market prices and joined rivals Trina Solar and JinkoSolar in leaving the MIP. Fellow Chinese majors Canadian Solar and ReneSola are outside the arrangement, having been expelled by the European Commission for allegedly breaching the rules.

“I previously called it obsolete but now I’m convinced it’s dead,” said Watson.

The SPE wants to see the MIP and the anti-dumping duties it was intended to replace scrapped, and replaced with a “level playing field” and a coherent industrial policy that encourages investment in European solar – including by players from beyond its borders.

The European Commission’s fair-trade measures – fought for by some in the EU’s manufacturing sector as protection against alleged unfair Chinese competition – have attracted criticism from others who claim they act as an artificial barrier to cost reduction.

Speaking at an SPE-organised event to celebrate the deployment of 100GW of solar in Europe, Watson said the MIP agreement is one of a raft of obstacles that needs to be tackled on PV’s journey to a future beyond subsidies.

Watson said his colleagues at the Slovak PV association recently told him that “but for the MIP we would be at grid parity today, because our retail electricity market price is very high”.

Maroš Šefčovic, the EU's vice-president in charge of energy union – and a key figure in determining the vital next face of European renewable energy and energy market policy – told the 100GW event that he wants to see a competitive electricity market to which renewables have full access “with properly designed rules, but at the same time take on their own responsibilities for balancing the system and strengthening the price signal”.

Earlier last week Recharge reported how Šefčovic hinted at an outlawing of priority grid access for renewables when he spoke at the WindEnergy Hamburg event, casting a shadow over a measure that has been instrumental in aiding strong growth in markets including Germany, the continent's clean-energy standard bearer.

Claude Turmes, a Green member of the European Parliament, warned the SPE event that solar and other renewable sectors face a stiff lobbying battle to head off the threat of removal of priority access in the forthcoming Renewable Energy Directive.