Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Little enthusiasm for EU probe into China solar panels

  • Solar panel installers are against the probe, saying it will cost them jobs (Photo: Brookhaven National Laboratory)

Apart from those spearheading the complaint, people within the European solar sector have expressed little enthusiasm for an EU investigation into the possible dumping of solar panels from China which may result in the imposition of import duties.

The investigation, announced on Thursday (6 September), comes after German solar panel maker SolarWorld and a coalition of anonymous allies accused China of lending cheap money, allowing its domestic industry to cut prices abroad and driving European companies out of the market.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“Chinese companies are selling solar products in Europe far below their cost of production, with a dumping margin of 60 to 80 percent,” Milan Nitzschke, spokesperson for the coalition, EU ProSun, said in a statement.

“This means that Chinese solar companies are making enormous losses, but are not bankrupt because they are bankrolled by the state,” he added.

The photovoltaic industry finds itself in the eye of a perfect storm, with demand and prices taking a dive as governments are cutting subsidies and technology advances.

Another factor is that China has been investing heavily. In no more than a couple of years, it almost tripled the global manufacturing capacity. Today, it produces some 65 percent of all solar panels in the world, according to the European Commission. It has in its hands some 70 to 80 percent of the EU market.

But apart from the coalition of solar panel makers, which claims to represent a majority of the EU manufacturing industry, and the European Commission, who said there is sufficient evidence to open investigations, analysts and others in the industry have been sceptical.

“Our sector employs about 300,000 people in Europe. Raw material suppliers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, logistic suppliers, construction companies, installers and maintenance providers would all suffer from a misguided attempt to protect a few manufacturers that are just a small part of the value chain”, Giulio Arletti, chief executive of Coenergia, an Italian distributor of photovoltaic modules, said in a statement.

In a sign of stark division, his and a number of other companies active in the solar sector - including the big Chinese manufacturers - have set up a counter-coalition, the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy.

“Trade barriers would push up costs and damage, possibly beyond repair, the competitiveness of solar power”, said Thorsten Preugschas, chief executive of German solar development company Soventix, another member of the counter-coalition.

But also more independent analysts have voiced their concerns.

“We are not a friend of trade wars. In the end, it makes everything more expensive. I don’t think it was a wise thing to do [to lodge a complaint],” Hans-Christoph Neidlein, editor-in-chief of Germany-based pv magazine, told EUobserver.

Asked whether the complaint was justified, he said: “As far as i know, I would say no. There are state loans, true. But we [in Europe] also have massive subsidies for solar companies.”

Paolo Frankl, director of renewable energies at the International Energy Agency, said that he, too, is not in favour of an EU anti-dumping investigation.

“We are rather against these local contests. If there is a conflict, it should be settled at the World Trade Organisation. Everything else is a last resort for the losers [of global competition],” he told EUobserver.

“EU companies that invest can already be competitive with China,” he added.

The investigation, the largest in recent history targeting an estimated €21 billion industry, is expected to take a total of 15 months. In the meantime, the commission will after three months be able to impose provisional duties, awaiting final results.

Focus

Germany to cut solar energy subsidies

Germany's solar power industry could cool as Berlin plans to cut subsidies in a sector whose energy capacity output has successfully more than doubled the government’s projected target.

Focus

Solar energy

Europe’s solar energy industry has been shaken by strong competition from China. EUobserver examines whether it has got what it takes to survive.

Agenda

China comes to EU next WEEK

China will come to Europe this week in the form of an EU-China summit, a separate bilateral business summit and a meeting of Chinese and European mayors.

Focus

Scandal around Slovak solar energy industry

When the Slovak government in 2009 allocated permits to build solar power plants, there was "widespread suspicion that it was rigged to benefit certain individuals," according to the US embassy in Bratislava. Prime Minister Fico denies the allegations.

Merkel backs China in EU trade row

Merkel has pledged her support to China in a trade row with the European Commission over solar panels and wireless equipment.

News in Brief

  1. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  2. German economy hit by global economic turbulence
  3. MEPs narrowly call for end to 'tampon tax'
  4. MEPs back spending €6bn on fusion energy research
  5. MEPs call for 'awareness campaign' on autonomous car benefits
  6. German glyphosate report 'copy-pasted' from industry
  7. Commission set to reveal controversial common tax plan
  8. Merkel plans major EU-China summit for 2020

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  2. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  3. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment
  4. Trump's wall vs Europe's sea
  5. Centre-right MEPs want transparency vote to be secret
  6. Germany scorns 'unusual' US threat on Russia pipeline
  7. UK parliament vote expected to prompt Brexit delay
  8. Pro-EU MEPs still see room for stopping Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us