To many solar advocates chagrin, the European Commission announced it will recommend extending European Union (EU) trade restrictions beyond March 2017 by continuing to add 50 percent tariffs to the cost of photovoltaic (PV) products manufactured in China. The commission alleges Chinese companies are selling solar panels well below market value, exerting undue price pressure on EU manufacturers.
“This decision would thwart the European market for years and would lead to a complete disconnection of the European sector and the world market. This is even more paradoxical looking at the winter package the EU has recently adopted,” said Dr. Holger Krawinkel, spokesperson for the Solar Alliance for Europe (SAFE). “Political patronage, as is the case here, will not help achieving that goal. It is poison for so many innovative system solutions developed by the solar and general energy sector in the recent years. We now have to rely on an intervention on behalf of the member states. The German government certainly has a most relevant role in the upcoming decision-making process and we expect them to lobby for an end of the measures.”
The commission’s investigation found that Chinese manufacturers were producing solar panels at 150 percent of the global demand for solar products and flooded the global market, driving the cost of solar products down. As such the commission decided to continue imposing strict tariffs on Chinese-produced solar panels calling the trade practices anti-competitive, and saying they cost European jobs and squashed potential market growth.
Several solar companies that supported the tariff measures celebrated the commission's decision. Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun, applauded the decision expressing minimum import prices for Chinese PV products and imposing tariff provisions would increase predictability and certainty for the EU solar industry in the future.
"We strongly welcome the Commission's findings and proposal,” said Nitzschke. "European manufacturers today are global leaders in the quality, longevity, efficiency and sustainability of solar cells and modules. The termination of the measures in the context of massive Chinese over-capacities and unfair trade would put the EU industry's survival in jeopardy. Thousands of highly skilled workers would lose their jobs and the major R&D investments in recent years would be fully lost."
Still, SolarPower Europe, more than 400 European solar companies, two dozen members of European Parliament and several NGOs like Greenpeace plan to appeal the commission’s decision, according to SAFE.
The EU isn’t the only place that’s concerned about Chinese manufacturers selling solar at below market prices to gain market share. In January 2015, the US International Trade Commission, supported by SolarWorld USA, upheld tariffs imposed on solar panels manufactured by China and Taiwan arguing that their practice of dumping solar products hurts American manufacturers’ ability to compete. On the other hand, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy opposed the tariffs arguing that they would raise the price of rooftop solar across the US.Tweet