UK trade body the Solar Trade Association (STA) has said it is “very disappointed” by the European Commission’s proposals to impose between 37.2% and 67.9% tariffs on Chinese solar module manufacturers.
Yesterday it emerged from commission sources that Chinese manufacturers will on average receive a 47% levy on products imported into Europe, pending approval from member states.
Paul Barwell, CEO of STA, said in a statement today: “These duties, if imposed, will damage the UK solar market, particularly the large-scale ground-mount sector. It seems absurd that [trade] commissioner De Gucht is supporting these proposals, when the duties will actually result in a net reduction in EU solar jobs, restrict the growth of the solar market and damage Europe’s chances of meeting its 2020 renewable targets."
These concerns were echoed by Nick Boyle, CEO of large-scale PV projects developer Lightsource Renewable Energy, who have 1.2 million modules in operation across UK, of which over 98% are sourced from China: "As the largest utility scale solar developer in the UK, this is obviously bad news. Our scale will help to lessen the impact of the tariffs, but these increased costs will threaten some projects and the advance of solar in the UK and the jobs that have been created. As an industry we have all benefited from lower cost panels, to such an extent that the industry had bounced back from changes to the Feed in Tariff last year and was becoming a really competitively priced form of energy. The only winners here are a few European manufacturers, for everyone else this casts a shadow over the success of solar in Europe.”
Earlier this month, the STA joined the voices of eight other solar trade associations from across Europe to call on the European Commission to stop its anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigations against Chinese solar manufacturers.
Although the imposition of duties had been expected, the STA said it was “shocked” by the minimum proposed level of 37%, which it believes will raise the price of Chinese solar panels above those in Europe and Korea.
Barwell added: “Solar power has shown impressive cost reductions in recent years, enabling government to set a pathway of gradually reducing subsidies. However, the cost increases resulting from these duties will throw the UK off course from its solar roadmap. We will continue lobbying DECC and BIS to ensure the UK votes ‘no’ to these proposed duties.”
Moreover, the STA believes that the duties will also cause a rising price trend for non-Chinese solar panels as they will no longer have to compete on price with Chinese PV products.
Barwell continued: “The commission surely did not intend to cause the prices of non-Chinese panels to increase, but this is a commercial reality when a lower priced product is removed from the market.”
The Queen said in her annual setpiece speech to parliament yesterday that the UK government would use its upcoming presidency of the G8 to “support free trade … while continuing to make progress in tackling climate change”.
Barwell said: “This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to both free trade and the environment by urging the other member states to vote ‘no’ to these duties. We ask Government to show strong leadership and avoid a very damaging precedent being set for other anti-dumping cases.
“For our part, we will be working jointly with the 12 supporting European trade associations to put pressure on their respective governments to reject duties on behalf of all our solar members.”