The European Union could be set to impose significant duties on all imported Chinese solar PV modules and associated key components, according to various reports.

The European Commission has reportedly reached an internal decision over provisional measures after finding evidence of alleged dumping of Chinese-manufactured panels into the EU.

The Financial Times is reporting that the trade commissioner, Karl De Gucht, is readying punitive tariffs of more than 40%, while the Wall Street Journal has pegged the level higher, at an average of 46%. Reuters is reporting that levels will be above 30%.   

When contacted, the European Commission was unable to confirm or deny the validity of the reports. An EU trade spokesperson told Solar Power Portal: “I am not commenting on this article based upon sources. It is our legal obligation as the spokesman's office to follow this strict procedure in order not to intentionally or unintentionally influence the market during an on-going investigation procedure.”

If the reports are correct, punitive duties at a level of 30% and above could cause substantial change to the downstream European solar market, especially in the UK as more than 80% of solar installed in the UK originates from China.

Reacting to the reports, the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE) commented: “Punitive tariffs – no matter at what level – could cause irreversible damage to the entire European Photovoltaic (PV) value chain. Those levels now reported would cost the EU PV industry and the whole of the EU economy dearly.

“During a hearing organised at the European Commission on 5 April, AFASE supporters made it very clear that the current market development leaves no room for price increases and that duties as low as 15% will destroy 85% of EU PV demand.”

Writing in Solar Business Focus UK, Milan Nitschke, president of EU ProSun countered: “EU ProSun expects a regulation to stop such harmful dumping, allowing new players from within and outside Europe to enter the market, encourage investment into new technology and equipment and give installers a real variety of products they can offer to their customers, Only then will the solar market in the UK and in Europe continue to grow rather than the current job losses due to numerous insolvencies of European solar manufacturers.”

The European solar market has been plunged into uncertainty following the EC’s decision to enforce the mandatory registration of all imported Chinese solar panels so that it could apply retroactive duties if the Commission felt it was necessary. However, it is not known whether the Commission will decide to impose tariffs retroactively.

Wouter Vermeersch, CEO of the Belgian company Cleantec Trade, noted that the price sensitive nature of the solar market means that any duties will have a profound impact. He said: “Solar companies already had to cope with continuously decreasing feed-in tariffs in the past. If prices are artificially increased by punitive tariffs, the European solar market would simply come to a standstill with disastrous effects on green jobs.”

For the anti-dumping arm of the EC’s investigation, the deadline for duties is 6 June. In order for the EC to implement duties it must present its provisional findings to the council, which will then vote on them. If there is a majority of votes opposed to measures then the council can overturn the EC’s decision. There is also still the possibility of a negotiated agreement between EU and China before any definitive duties can be imposed in December.