Chinese dumping ‘poison’ to European solar market

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EU ProSun President and VP of SolarWorld Milan Nitzschke has described alleged Chinese dumping as “poison” to the European solar market.

Reza Shaybani, Chairman of the British Photovoltaic Association (BPVA), hosted a debate at the House of Commons this week between the two parties central to the European trade case investigation in London on Wednesday. In September, industry action group EU ProSun, led by SolarWorld, lodged a complaint with the European Commission that subsidised Chinese imports were harming the European solar industry.

Nitzschke likened manufacturers competing in the European solar market to the Tour de France. He said that the Chinese government’s subsidies were akin to illegal performance enhancing substances consumed by participants of the Tour de France, giving them an unfair advantage over their peers.

Although, no Chinese delegates were present at the meeting, the opposing argument was represented by Gregory Spanoudakis, President of Canadian Solar European Operations and Chairman of the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), which maintains the Chinese are not illegally dumping.

Spanoudakis told the BPVA board members: “There is no industry in this world that is not subsidised in some way, shape or form. Subsidies do not equate to free money!”

He said Nitzschke misunderstood the facts. Spanoudakis said the high subsidy figures quoted by Nitzschke also included loan facilities from banks rather than solely from the government. Spanoudakis asserted that these should not be included when talking about Chinese subsidies otherwise all countries are subsidised in the same way.

“Tariffs endanger the aim of grid parity and the hopes of achieving it any time soon”, said Spanoudakis.

Nitzschke agreed that in the beginning the European industry needed Chinese manufacturers in order to make solar competitive. However, he claimed the Chinese are now selling at 30-50% below the cost price of production.

“It is not possible for Europeans to be able to compete. Nobody can afford to make losses with every kilowatt produced,” he said.

Spanoudakis remained optimistic. “Certainly there is a willingness by all parties to talk” he told PV-Tech. “It’s a question of bringing all personalities and egos to the table. If we leave our egos and personalities at the door and talk, certainly I think there is constructive discussion that can take place.

“Can our discussions if they take place in the very, very, very near future influence the various Chinese agencies that might take, let’s not call it retaliatory, but take measures of their own against European industries? You never know. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Spanoudakis concluded: “Can we influence [the Chinese] government? Yes, I know for a fact we can but we must first begin by having constructive dialogue between the parties so that the various government agencies can see the willingness of the parties to work together to find a solution.”

Shaybani said: “This is an important issue which will have an impact in the European PV market, which currently is the biggest market in the world. As for the rest of Europe, we in the UK will also be affected by the outcome of the investigation. We are keeping a close eye on the progress and will keep our members informed.”

The BPVA board meeting was attended by 20 board members and six guests. The meeting also featured an update on the recently released Energy Bill from Alasdair Grainger, Head of Feed-in Tariffs at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

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