Solar developer Orta Solar has launched a fierce attack on the European Commission’s proposals to recommend trade levies of between 40% and 70% to all imported Chinese solar products.

Nick Pascoe, managing director of Orta Solar explained: “We invest many millions in surveying, planning, legal, financial and technical design work typically twelve months prior to constructing these projects and as of today we no longer know whether it will be economically viable to construct UK commercial scale solar farms later in 2013 and beyond. How can we possibly continue to invest?”

Orta Solar has developed one of the UK’s largest solar portfolios consisting of over 20 solar farms with a construction cost of £250 million. The company is currently commissioning its next round of solar developments, planned for completion before March 2014. However, the news from Brussels has forced the company to reconsider the viability of its pipeline.

Pascoe added: “We’re astonished that the EU has bought into the protectionist argument of 42 largely bankrupt EU-based solar wafer and cell manufacturers at the expense of thousands of EU-based solar development and installation businesses who depend on easy availability of low cost solar panels for their existence.

“Any certainty we had on future construction costs has just been removed with the stroke of a pen. We’re writing to and speaking with all of our clients, suppliers and partners explaining the impact of the proposed EU levy, suggesting how they can help fight it through the Alliance For Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE) or lobbying the Department of Energy & Climate Change and explaining what we’re doing to help keep their projects on track.”

A number of downstream UK solar industry players have expressed their dismay at the proposed level of duties. Paul Barwell, CEO of the UK’s Solar Trade Association, said: “These duties, if imposed, will damage the UK solar market, particularly the large-scale ground-mount sector. It seems absurd that 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.”

Orta Solar points out that, in the UK, only around 500 people are directly employed in manufacturing solar PV, whereas around 25,000 people currently make a living from installing solar and developing larger scale projects.

“Throughout Europe, the solar sector has become a largely value adding industry enabled by availability of low cost solar panels and limited by sensitive government subsidised economics that allow for minimal margins and carefully selected projects”, Pascoe said.

“It does not take much imagination to see what will happen to the installation and commercial development sector if cost prices are hiked upwards whilst the revenues remain fixed. The EU is shutting the stable door, but the horse bolted some time ago and we’ve mostly now got over it.”