Thursday

26th Jan 2023

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

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Opinion

Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency

The director of Amnesty International Greece on the political spying scandal that now threatens to bring down prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Activists and NGO staff work with the constant fear that they are being spied on.

Latest News

  1. Official: EU parliament's weak internal rule-making body leads to 'culture of impunity'
  2. Red tape border logjam for EU's 1.3m 'frontier workers'
  3. Greece's spy scandal must shake us out of complacency
  4. Greek government in no-confidence vote over spying scandal
  5. The legal battle for justice against Kremlin's 'untouchables'
  6. UAE's fossil-fuelled high-tech mirage of a green future
  7. MEP harassment case sheds light on flimsy support for victims
  8. Big Agri's EU lobbying playbook on 'hunger' and a 'refugee crisis'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  2. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  3. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  4. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  2. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  3. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  5. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  6. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us