French government in a FiT over Chinese PV module imports

According to the French Environment Minister, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet the current 3-month halt to the feed-in tariff for solar PV installations over 3 kilowatts is because the majority of modules installed come from China. Appearing on France Info radio, Kosciusko-Morizet was quoted by Bloomberg as saying, “We are not here to subsidize the Chinese economy but to create green jobs in France.” France has only allowed installations below 3 kilowatts to continue to be installed.

The lack of transparency in the French PV market, coupled to erratic interference from the French government is making investments in long-term jobs in the sector, increasingly more difficult.

Recently, the largest thin-film manufacturer, First Solar said it would be re-evaluating plans to build a manufacturing plant in the country based on market uncertainty and FiT changes due to ongoing government involvement.

Previously, the government had warned that the high rates of adoption for solar this year would raise electricity prices beyond acceptable levels, forcing changes to the FiT.

Now the Environment Minister is claiming that the majority of solar modules installed in the country have come from Chinese producers.

However, there remains little information available for independent scrutiny on the actual number of installations or which modules and inverters are being installed in the country.

Furthermore, France does not have a large PV manufacturing base so the majority of installed modules would therefore have to be imported either from Europe, the U.S. or Asia.

In Europe, the largest concentration of module manufacturers reside in Germany, however the German market has continued to grow fast and is expected to more than double installations in 2010. The result has been that many German based manufacturers have been at full capacity and unable to meet demand as much as they would like from outside Germany.

On the other hand, Chinese manufacturers have been aggressively adding manufacturing capacity to meet demand from international markets, while still having plants fully utilized throughout the year.

Cuts in the FiT as seen in Germany at the beginning of the year have also been to the advantage of low-cost manufacturers, primarily those based in China as installers and customers react to potentially lower investment returns. 

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