L R AS Published on Sunday 18 February 2024 - n° 476 - Categories:various sectors, Europe

3rd article, The attitude of public authorities

The European Commission has set a target of having 40% of the photovoltaic demand produced in the European Union by 2030. However, the industry is squeezed between low-cost Chinese production and US aid for industrial recovery under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), introduced in August 2022. In the first year alone

In terms of applications, the United States has attracted 155 GW of announced relocation projects, including 85.1 GW in panels, 19.6 GW in silicon and wafers and 43.2 GW in cell production.

Many European manufacturers, including Meyer Burger and Nordsun, have moved to the United States, citing a better economic and legislative environment than in Europe. "There is a mismatch between the needs of industry and the capacity of the public sector," says Lucas Weiss, Managing Director of French manufacturer Voltec.

In recent years, China has made major investments in its capacity, which now exceeds one terawatt for a global demand of 400 GW. Since 2011, $50 billion has been invested in photovoltaics in China. Today, the country accounts for 80% of global production across the five stages of the industry: silicon, ingots, wafers, cells and panels. The director of the future Holosolis gigafactory, who worked for five years at Trina Solar in China, told Energaïa that everything there is subsidised by the Chinese government, from the construction of a factory to supplies.

The fall in the price of Chinese panels to 12 cents per Wp in Europe, i.e. almost half the price of those manufactured in Europe (for an Asian cost price of 16 ct/Wp) and the American fiscal and economic measures are making the situation of European manufacturers untenable. The industry association ESMC claims that "without emergency measures, we are on the verge of losing more than 50% of the EU's modern solar photovoltaic panel production capacity over the next two months".

Despite, or because of, the urgency signalled by industry, the European Council and Parliament have reached an agreement (known as the Net-Zero Industry Act, NZIA) that aims to relocate 40% of the production of key green technologies, including photovoltaics, to the continent. It is a provisional text that still has to be approved by the Member States, which may apply non-price criteria to renewable energy auctions for at least 30% of the volume auctioned each year.

European manufacturers will be able to (Editor's note: or rather could) sell part of their production without pressure on prices, but the effects of this agreement will only be felt in two or three years' time. But European manufacturers will not wait that long. Emergency measures are needed to absorb around 800 MW of stocks of photovoltaic panels that European manufacturers are unable to sell.

Implementing customs measures?

SolarPower Europe, which has a number of Chinese groups as members, does not want to hear talk of customs duties or anti-dumping measures, claiming that "the initiation of anti-dumping and/or anti-subsidy investigations would be the best way to reduce the impact of these measures".anti-dumping and/or anti-subsidy investigations and the imposition of duties on imports of solar photovoltaic products would be detrimental to the entire European solar value chain". It points out that import taxes on Chinese products introduced in 2013 were abolished five years later.

However, this position is primarily that of developers and installers, who want to obtain the cheapest possible panels.

The manufacturers stress that the survival of the last photovoltaic equipment manufacturers in Europe is at stake, and that Europe must protect its industry. "We're going to have to strike a balance between closing borders to protect European production and letting cheap products come in to continue the deployment of solar power in the energy mix on a European scale.nergy mix on a European and French scale," sums up Jules Nyssen, Chairman of the Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables (SER).


PV Magazine 15 February 2024

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