UK government will do ‘everything’ it can to remove ‘unwelcome drain’ of MIP

Energy minister Andrea Leadsom has said the government will do everything in its power to remove the “unwelcome drain” of the minimum import price (MIP) attached to Chinese solar modules.

The remarks, which came during an oral and topical questions session in parliament this morning, form perhaps the most striking criticism of the anti-dumping duties offered by a politician to date.

Both Leadsom and secretary of state Amber Rudd have discussed the subject in the past and last month details regarding the latter’s lobbying of European Commission figures, as well as a letter addressed to EC commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, were revealed.

However today’s comments are the first time either have directly called for the MIP to be removed. Leadsom also remarked that it would be fairer of the Commission to remove the charges while its expiry review is underway, rather than the current system under which the measures remain in place. As a result, the current minimum price of €0.56 per watt will remain intact until the EC’s reviews conclude.

Rudd was also questioned on the subject in relation to news issued late last month that the Commission has extended the duties to particular imports from Malaysia and Taiwan that have been found to have circumvented the duties. This extension, which has been backdated until May 2015, will result in developers that have imported affected modules being hit with tax bills of roughly 62% of the total cost of the modules.  

This is highly likely to push related projects into economical issues and Rudd criticised how such a system means that solar costs remain higher inside Europe. “It’s bad for the ongoing success of this industry… we will do everything we can to ensure they’re removed as soon as possible,” she said.

Meanwhile Leadsom confirmed Solar Power Portal’s story from last month that the Department of Energy and Climate Change is prepared to revisit the new feed-in tariff regime if HMRC is forced to increase VAT on solar panels to 20% as expected on 1 August 2016.

HMRC is currently consulting on the subject after the European Commission considered the UK’s VAT ruling to contravene its directives, forcing the government’s hand. The consultation is scheduled to conclude on 3 February, and a DECC spokesman told SPP last month that the department could revisit the regime as early as this quarter.