Exclusive: Solar Trade Association warns duties could bring UK solar industry to a ‘grinding halt’

  • Manufacturing

    Paul Barwell has warned that duties on Chinese solar products are ‘not going to be good.’ Image credit: Q Cells

The CEO of the Solar Trade Association (STA) Paul Barwell was left “feeling flat” after the European Commission (EC) announced that it will be imposing duties of 11.8% on Chinese-manufactured solar products.

Speaking to Solar Power Portal, Barwell expressed serious concerns over how the duties will affect the UK market. He said:  “Firstly, any form of duties is not going to be good. The EC is clearly after a settlement between China, and [trade commissioner Karel] De Gucht is suggesting that he doesn’t want to impose these duties and that [the 11.8% tariff] is being used as a carrot.

“However, at 47% the industry will come to a grinding halt and in many cases it has – a lot of the manufacturers have stopped shipping to Europe so there is no product in the pipeline. The damage has already been created over the last two to three weeks, and really since the retroactive registration started. But I don’t think that two months gives the market any real length of time to import product from China.

“A three-month window would have been far more beneficial. Right now there is going to be a lot of negotiations happening between installers in the UK and anybody who is able to ship product at this late stage. But before they do that they still need firm guarantees that the 11% remains at 11% for that two-month period and that it isn’t going to be retroactively adjusted. If it is going to be retroactively adjusted then it isn’t going to be any use to anyone.

“The other problem is the lead time is in excess of two months so that if there was product available – which in a lot of circumstances there isn’t because it is being shipped off to the emerging markets such as Japan – they are not going to be able to get product manufactured, shipped and imported into Europe within that window.”

Barwell also questioned some of the wording used by the trade commissioner. He pointed out that De Gucht said he wanted “an agreement that will remove the injury”.

Barwell said: “De Gucht already defined the injury as being 47% – that’s the duties he’s applying, therefore, is he suggesting that if China doesn’t pose an equivalent level there would be no deal?

On the chances of a negotiated settlement that will be beneficial to the solar industry, Barwell warned: “I think whatever the deal it won’t necessarily be beneficial to the European solar industry but it will be better than the outcome as implied by these duties. A settlement has to take place because it would appear that these duties are going ahead regardless. Having said that, if we have the same voting outcome at the definitive stage in December, duties will be blocked and there would be no duties.

“There is a trade-off between accepting an interim measure now, settlement with China over the next four months resulting in cancellation of the duties or just hoping for a vote at the end of December that cancels duties all together. Right now I think the best option is to pursue a settlement between China and Europe.”

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