Solar industry looks to Chinese imports to ease subsidy squeeze

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has called for the EU to drop import tariffs on Chinese solar modules, claiming the cheaper equipment could help the industry overcome subsidy cuts.

Since December 2013, Chinese imports to Europe have been subject to anti-dumping tariffs, which enforce a minimum price of €0.56 per watt and annual import quota of 7GW.

The rules are intended to protect European manufacturers who cannot produce important equipment at the same price as Chinese firms – who are supported by substantial Government subsidies.

However the REA says the tariffs, known minimum import pricing (MIP), have prevented module costs from coming down in the UK over the past few years.

The extra costs had been mitigated by Government subsidy schemes, but with sweeping cuts being made, the REA said: “It is extremely important for the solar industry that MIP is not extended beyond December 2015 to maintain a sustainable industry, which is also in the interests of all energy bill payers.”

REA policy analyst Lauren Cook added: “As the solar industry moves to a world beyond subsidies, cost reduction in the installation process has become even more important in order to reach grid-parity more quickly.”

Global shift

The call from the REA was prompted by the news that China has devalued its currency by 2%, making the cost of its export even lower.

Module prices in the EU are now up to 25% higher than the global average.

In a recent KPMG/REA report, it is estimated that modules account for just over 50% of installation costs at UK sites, so any reduction in cost is “extremely important” for the overall cost of the system.

The REA claims that solar projects in the UK could be built without subsidy within the next few years if module costs are allowed to fall naturally, and there is stable policy support.

Brad Allen



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