Report: EU Tariffs Ending The Era Of Low-Cost Chinese Solar Modules


The European Union's (EU) anti-dumping tariffs are spurring an increase in prices for Chinese solar modules, marking the end of a period when inexpensive photovoltaic devices enabled fast growth of installations in the region. This is the conclusion of a new report by IHS.

After declining for 48 months since the first quarter of 2009, with a seasonal uptick in February 2013, the average price of Chinese crystal polysilicon modules in Europe rose by 4% in June to EUR 0.54 per watt, up from EUR 0.52 in May, according to IHS. The market research firm expects prices to continue climbing in July and then again in September, with an increase to an average of EUR 0.55 per watt by the end of that month.

‘With the plan to reduce government subsidies in Germany starting in April 2012, low-cost PV modules from China took over as the engine of growth in the European solar market, enabling the continued expansion of installations,’ says Henning Wicht, senior director of solar research for IHS. ‘However, the era of low-cost Chinese modules is now over, as prices have risen due to the EU Commission's implementation of preliminary anti-dumping tariffs. This will have a negative impact on solar installations and is likely to cause many companies engaged in the engineering, procurement and construction of solar systems to go out of business this year.’

The EU Commission imposed the tariffs on June 5. The duties of 11.8% correspond to a net value of EUR 0.05 to 0.055 per watt. IHS says this additional cost has translated directly into an increase in prices for buyers.

According to IHS, prices now are rising again partly because of the closing of a loophole that allowed them to bypass the tariff. IHS says some Chinese suppliers in May and early June used Croatia's transition from a non-EU nation to an EU member state and declared modules shipped to Croatia before July 1 as duty-cleared goods. However, this circumvention is no longer available.

The major factor determining module pricing in Europe in the third quarter is whether officials from the EU and China will agree on the future trade of solar modules, IHS says. If no agreement is forthcoming, average tariffs on imported Chinese solar modules could rise an average of 47.6% during the period from August 5 through December.

‘If the 47.6 percent tariff goes into effect, global supply lines and pricing for solar modules will be shaken up dramatically,’ says Glenn Gu, senior PV analyst at IHS. ‘Chinese suppliers initially will suspend almost all shipments to Europe. In order to continue serving the European market, they then will try to shift production capacity to locations outside of China by using overseas branches or via agreements with non-Chinese module makers. But even if they succeed in this, the supply disruption is likely to cause module prices to increase by 12 to 20 percent during the following months.’

Such a level of pricing makes high-quality modules from South Korean and Western suppliers more competitive with Chinese-made products. Because of this, IHS concludes, European module buyers are likely to switch to these alternative sources.

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