Following reports last week that the European Union was considering scrapping import controls on solar panels and cells from China, the European Commission has announced that it will remove trade duties on solar panels and cells imported from China, Taiwan, and Malaysia.
Last week we reported on rumors that the European Union was preparing to end import controls on solar panels and cells from China after a majority of the EU’s Member States backed the move, despite strong opposition from EU ProSun, a joint initiative representing EU solar producers which launched the original complaint back in 2012. The regulations dictated that Chinese solar manufacturers could sell their products in Europe free of any duties if they do so at or above a minimum price that has progressively declined over the length of the policy.
Despite backing from a majority of EU Member States, EU ProSun President Milan Nitzschke stated that there were still good reasons why the controls should be left in place. Specifically, according to Nitzschke, the move to scrap antidumping measures “comes at the same time as China is releasing the biggest wave of dumped exports ever in the global solar market: A volume four times as big as the annual demand of all EU member states put together. While other big markets such as the US, India, Canada, or Turkey are implementing strict measures against being flooded by dumped Chinese produced solar modules, the EU is going to terminate its existing anti-dumping measures and throwing open the doors to its market.”
Despite these warnings, the International Trade Department of the EU said that, “After considering the needs of both producers and those using or importing solar panels the Commission decided it was in the best interests of the EU as a whole to let the measures lapse.”
As such, the measures lapsed on Midnight of September 3, a move which unsurprisingly was welcomed by China’s Ministry of Commerce, which released the following statement:
“China welcomes the EU’s termination of PV dual-reaction measures against China. The Sino-European PV trade dispute has been gradually resolved. It is the result of the joint efforts of the government and the industry under the high-level concerns of both sides. It is a model for successfully solving trade friction through consultation. The EU’s termination of China’s PV dual-reaction measures will restore the Sino-European PV trade to a normal market, provide a more stable and predictable business environment for the cooperation between the two sides, and truly realize mutual benefit and win-win between the two industries. Photovoltaic products are important clean energy products, and their increasingly widespread application is beneficial to countries to effectively deal with climate change.”
The move will likely benefit both the Chinese and European solar industries. Marc Rechter, co-founder of integrated solar energy consortium Solar Synergy Group, speaking to PV Tech, explained that he expects Chinese Tier 1 prices to fall by about €2 cents per Watt which, according to Rechter, “should return their business to profitability” now that they don’t have to produce for the EU from Taiwan or Vietnam. In addition, CAPEX for EU solar projects can now be further reduced, bringing EU solar closer to grid parity.
In response to the news, ProSun’s Milan Nitzschke said that “The EU Commission decision to end the measures seriously damages the EU solar manufacturing industry. Now, after the fatal decision is taken it is up to member states to develop tools to at least support investments in solar installations of high sustainability, low carbon footprint, long lifetime and overall high quality. This is exactly what European manufacturers are producing – high-quality solar products, manufactured under European social, environmental and quality regulations – and which would get lost if the EU would rely only on imports from China.”
Dr Christian Westermeier, President of SolarPower Europe, the trade body representing the solar industry across Europe, applauded the European Commission’s decision, saying “This is a watershed moment for the European solar industry,” he said. “By removing the trade duties, the European Commission has today lifted the single biggest barrier to solar growth in Europe. The Commission’s move to end the trade measures is unquestionably the right one for Europe, we expect to see a significant increase in solar jobs and deployment – which will only propel the energy transition in Europe.”
“Today the European Commission has unleashed a new solar age in Europe,” added James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe. “The trade measures have made solar much more expensive than necessary in Europe , by removing them, solar will now be cheapest form of electricity in many EU countries – this means that many more consumers and national governments will be able to invest in solar. The removal of the measures will also help EU manufacturers along the solar value chain through increased demand for their products. This decision coupled with a strong industrial strategy as proposed through the European Commission’s Clean Energy Industrial Forum will also undoubtedly increase the amount of solar products made in Europe.”