Thursday

23rd Feb 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“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.

Focus

Crowded race to win EU medicines agency

As cities line up to take over the European Medicines Agency some fear a kerfuffle that could destabilise the agency's work and slow down the pace of approving new medicines.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  2. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  3. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  4. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  5. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  6. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  7. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  8. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  2. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  3. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  4. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  5. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  7. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  10. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  11. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe