EU member states have overwhelmingly voted against the imposition of provisional duties on Chinese solar panels with 18 member states voting against, four in favour and five abstaining.

The result of the EU Council’s vote shows that the European Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, is facing an uphill battle to persuade member states to support the Commission’s proposed average duty rate of 47%.

Solar Power Portal understands that a number of notable EU member states have joined the UK and Germany, who have been vocal in their opposition of duties, in voting against the proposals.

Countries who voted in support of the proposals include some of Europe’s largest solar players, most notably France, Italy and Spain.

Commenting on the results of the Council vote, Paul Barwell CEO of the Solar Trade Association said: “The results of this vote send a strong signal to the European Commission that these duties would do much more damage than good to the European solar industry. If duties are imposed, panel prices will rise across the board, and consumers and installers alike will lose out. It makes no sense to safeguard 8,000 manufacturing jobs by sacrificing up to 200,000 jobs in the wider industry.”

After the vote, De Gucht accused China of forcing EU member states to oppose duties against Chinese solar manufacturers. However, James Drewer, UK Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE) spokesman has hit back stating: “The Member States have heard clear and consistent evidence from their domestic solar businesses about how punitive tariffs would damage business. AFASE is now supported by more than 570 European PV companies representing over 60,000 jobs, with a turnover of €20.9bn in the EU.

“Additionally 15 solar trade associations from across Europe have declared their opposition to the tariffs and have written to the Trade Commissioner to express their views on the investigation. The overwhelming view from the solar industry in Europe is in complete opposition to the imposition of punitive tariffs.”

Despite wide opposition amongst EU member states, Solar Power Portal understands that De Gucht plans on forging ahead with the proposed level of duties and will publish the previously-stated duties on June 5.

Ray Noble, the STA’s PV Specialist, added: “We understand that under EU rules, despite a clear majority vote, the Commissioner can still go ahead and impose these duties. I suggest David Cameron and Angela Merkel work together to sort out these absurd rules and remove this lingering market uncertainty, so that industry can get on with installing low cost, clean and affordable solar energy.”