Bloomberg New Energy Finance's (BNEF) new Solar Shipments Index shows a rise in photovoltaic shipments as well as an improving price situation for the industry in June, with suppliers in China and Taiwan experiencing particularly high demand. The survey of leading manufacturers in the PV supply chain indicates some hopeful signs for companies that have been contending overcapacity and consolidation in recent years.
According to BNEF, the booming Japanese market, expected to total between 6.9 and 9.4 GW of new-build PV this year, was one major driver for the June upswing. Another important factor was the rush to ship products to the European Union before a higher rate of preliminary antidumping tariffs on Chinese products was expected to come into effect August 6.
The Solar Shipments Index showed that leading Chinese cell makers made shipments corresponding to 116% of their average manufacturing capacity usage in June, with Chinese module makers averaging 99% and Taiwanese cell makers 84%.
However, these high utilization rates must be treated with some caution, BNEF says. The sample in the Index (19.2 GW of cell capacity and 16.1 GW of module capacity) is weighted toward Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies that provided timely data for the June report. Nevertheless, BNEF says industry-wide, manufacturing utilization rates have increased significantly from May.
Pricing along the value chain has risen slightly in recent months, with the BNEF Solar Spot Price Index showing average polysilicon prices just over $17/kg, up from a low of $16/kg in December 2012. Module prices have also risen slightly, with Chinese modules from reputable suppliers widely commanding $0.75 per watt and international modules $0.86 per watt, BNEF says.
Market participants in the index expect prices to stabilize from now on. Chinese antidumping tariffs on polysilicon are not anticipated to have much effect on U.S. pricing. Europe and China appear to have buried the hatchet on solar panel trade.
‘These data show that there is strong global demand for the PV products of the largest manufacturers, despite uncertainty and the flow of bad news from the global solar market,’ says Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at BNEF. ‘Consolidation continues, but 2013 will still be a year of growth for the industry as a whole.’
The BNEF Solar Insight team expects the global PV market to total 37.0 GW (the median scenario of 35 individual country forecasts) in 2013, compared to 30.5 GW in 2012.