European trade commissioner Karel de Gucht has confirmed that duties will rise to 47.6 per cent from 06 August and apply until a final decision is made in December following the conclusion of its investigation into unfair trading practices by Chinese firms.
Although designed to protect European PV manufacturers from the alleged below-cost selling of panels (dumping) by Chinese manufacturers, the decision has been met with condemnation by trade bodies and was made despite intense lobbying by EU nations including the UK.
With over 80 per cent of the market, many in the UK solar sector fear that by making Chinese panels more expensive, global wholesale panel prices will be driven upwards making PV less attractive to consumers.
Paul Barwell, chief executive of the STA, said: “Any form of duties is not good news. Allowing the industry a two-month reprieve at 11 per cent duties, without catches, might allow the industry some breathing space. However, European delivery lead times are up to ten weeks, and will also be subject to the availability of stock.”
Nick Boyle, ceo of Lightsource, said: “We feel that any duty levied by Europe on Chinese solar panels will have a hugely detrimental effect on the industry as a whole, most significantly in areas such as the UK where the industry is working hard to move from cottage industry to fully fledged business sector.
“While we welcome the slight short term reduction in these threats, we believe it is essential that the whole affair gets resolved quickly which will then allow us to move on with the huge task in hand of helping deliver the UK and Europe’s far reaching targets for renewable energy generation.”
Rupert Higgin, managing director of The Green Electrician Group, said: “These high duties will damage the UK’s fragile UK PV sector that’s still recovering from the poorly handled changes to the Feed-in-Tariff.
“The EC has ignored the position of the vast majority of EU member states, the industry and opted for dangerous protectionism. Open markets are the right choice to achieve lower solar energy prices, to create more solar jobs and to develop a growing green energy industry in the UK.
“Currently the value added lies upstream and downstream from solar panel production and that’s where the UK’s PV companies are doing well. Imposing duties on Chinese imports will push up the cost of installing solar PV and damage the country’s opportunity to build a green and high value-added economy.
“It would be more constructive for the EC to spend the time, money and effort in developing a clearer and more considered renewables policy that supports the growing renewables industry.
“The UK solar industry has proved resilient to recent changes and continues to provide great returns to those who invest in solar. Although these provisional duties add unnecessary challenges we are confident that the dynamic nature of our industry will see it respond in a positive manner.”
Jonathan Selwyn, managing director of Lark Energy, said: “Most of the European solar industry is dependent on the low prices that Chinese panels provide and will be desperate for a compromise to be reached before the higher tariff comes into force in August. The consequences of there not being a deal are dire: far from saving the European solar industry, it will stop it dead in the water threatening tens of thousands of jobs, and the reciprocal measures that China will take will impact on other industries and could escalate into a full-blown trade war which is not in Europe’s interests in the current economic climate.
“Although it appears some Chinese manufacturers have been selling solar panels below cost, this is a reflection of the market not of any pre-determined strategy by China. The solar industry in Europe has grown fast in recent years, and China has been building its solar industry to meet that demand leading to economies of scale and significant price reductions. With European government subsidies being reduced, the market is now dependent on these falling prices.”