UK faces solar panel shortage as stock heads to Germany and US

The Renewable Energy Association is warning UK solar PV installers could soon face a shortage of solar panels as manufacturers divert stock to other countries following DECC’s disastrous handling of the Feed-in Tariff scheme.

During the scramble to beat the original, and unlawful, December 12 deadline for retrospective cuts to the subsidy many installers used up large stock reserves to match consumer demand.

But the perfect storm of a trade war and unforeseen demand elsewhere has resulted in a massive shortage for the UK industry, which was expecting a slow start to 2012 and not anticipating the new contingency date of March 3 as a revised deadline for cuts.

Without warning, Germany grabbed an unexpectedly huge quantity of solar equipment after installing 3GW of renewable capacity in December – it had introduced 4.5GW of new solar power throughout the whole of the remainder of the year.

And Chinese solar panel manufacturers have flooded the US market with cells and modules ahead of the potential introduction of US government duties, according to the country’s solar manufacturing association.

Data from US Customs reveals Chinese producers have more than tripled their exports to the US ahead of a proposed crackdown – depleting already scarce supplies for other countries, including the UK.

The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), which represents more than 150 US companies, says there has been year-on-year 346 percent surge in import volume by Chinese solar producers.

Ray Noble, solar PV specialists at the Renewable Energy Association, said the freak events had serious implications for the UK.

He explained: “For the UK the present ‘mini gold rush’, as a result of the government losing their Appeal, has come at the wrong time, not only because of the USA/Chinese product demand, but the fact that Germany installed 3GW in December – after having only installed 4.5GW in the previous 11 months.

“The solar industry was expecting a slow start in 2012 and thought they had enough stock to meet demand and took a long break over Christmas, however they had not allowed for the unexpected 3GW going in Germany which cleaned out the Warehouses of the top brand solar companies.

“Many of the majors, including the top Chinese, will only be able to replenish stocks by early March, unfortunately for UK installers after the 3rd March tariff change deadline.”