Domestic manufacturing ‘changes the whole supply chain,’ says Finlay Colville at UK Solar Summit

solar power portal
“Apart from products going into the US and India, everywhere else will buy products from China,” said Finlay Colville on the first day of the UK Solar Summit. Image: Solar Power Portal.

Solar Media head of research Finlay Colville noted that a greater emphasis on domestic manufacturing “changes the whole supply chain,” on the first day of the UK Solar Summit, held today in London.

He began by outlining broad market trends that have shaped the current solar landscape. Chief among them is the “manufacturing downturn” unfolding in 2024 due to drastically low component and module prices, which Colville predicted last year. In a downturn – “driven by a lack of profitability in manufacturing” – manufacturers still need to supply the market, and so their priority becomes “cost, cost, cost,” he said.

This article requires Premium SubscriptionBasic (FREE) Subscription

Unlock unlimited access for 12 whole months of distinctive global analysis

Photovoltaics International is now included.

  • Regular insight and analysis of the industry’s biggest developments
  • In-depth interviews with the industry’s leading figures
  • Unlimited digital access to the PV Tech Power journal catalogue
  • Unlimited digital access to the Photovoltaics International journal catalogue
  • Access to more than 1,000 technical papers
  • Discounts on Solar Media’s portfolio of events, in-person and virtual

Or continue reading this article for free

Solar module costs are split between silicon and non-silicon across the supply chain. Colville says that the issue that caused the downturn was that in 2022-23, the industry expected non-silicon costs, those stemming from the ingot to module in the supply chain, to drop. They didn’t, and silicon costs from overwhelmingly Chinese polysilicon production had almost bottomed out already. This put huge pressure on the profit margins of module manufacturers and drove them to lower module prices however they could.

The second major factor is the emergence of trade disputes around the solar industry, particularly in the US and India, against China. The US’ imposition of a number of trade tariffs on Chinese PV imports, most recently the emerging antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) tariffs, may limit imports of solar cells from Chinese-owned companies operating in Southeast Asia to the US.

In response, the US solar sector is looking to expand its own manufacturing capacity, with the Solar Energy Manufacturers for America (SEMA) Coalition calling for a “strengthening” of an onshore supply chain earlier this year.

“How do you nurture domestic manufacturing?” asked Colville. “Either you just finance the whole sector, or you have to put barriers in to stop any product coming into the country at any cost. The US is choosing the second option … but it’s much more strategic in India.”

“Apart from products going into the US and India, everywhere else will buy products from China. The only other thing that’s driving traceability is corporate purchasing, where every company has an environmental, social and governance (ESG) department … and sets buying conditions.

“But they are nowhere near as detailed, as rigid, as comprehensive as what you get in countries where there are trade policies in place. It’s very superficial, it’s largely a box-ticking exercise.”

You can read the full coverage of the UK Solar Summit, including the full version of this story, on our sister site, Solar Power Portal.

27 June 2024
9am BST
FREE WEBINAR -This special webinar will take a deep dive into the latest PV ModuleTech Bankability Ratings pyramid, capturing the relative bankability status of the top 70-80 PV module suppliers globally. In addition to revealing the latest ranking of global PV module suppliers, PV Tech’s Head of Research, Finlay Colville, will show the depth of analysis and commentary included within the report for module suppliers. A key output from the webinar will be to learn which PV module suppliers have moved up the rankings pyramid in recent years and why this growth has been achieved. Conversely, some of the companies that have fallen down the rankings will be discussed, in particular those suffering from market-share losses and financial problems.
8 October 2024
San Francisco Bay Area, USA
PV Tech has been running an annual PV CellTech Conference since 2016. PV CellTech USA, on 8-9 October 2024 is our second PV CellTech conference dedicated to the U.S. manufacturing sector. The event in 2023 was a sell out success and 2024 will once again gather the key stakeholders from PV manufacturing, equipment/materials, policy-making and strategy, capital equipment investment and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out PV manufacturing in the U.S. out to 2030 and beyond.
17 June 2025
Napa, USA
PV Tech has been running PV ModuleTech Conferences since 2017. PV ModuleTech USA, on 17-18 June 2025, will be our fourth PV ModulelTech conference dedicated to the U.S. utility scale solar sector. The event will gather the key stakeholders from solar developers, solar asset owners and investors, PV manufacturing, policy-making and and all interested downstream channels and third-party entities. The goal is simple: to map out the PV module supply channels to the U.S. out to 2026 and beyond.

Read Next

June 14, 2024
Ørsted has commissioned its Helena Energy Center in the US state of Texas, a 518MW co-located solar and wind project.
June 14, 2024
US renewable energy project developer Ameren Missouri has acquired a 150MW solar PV project in the state of Illinois.
June 14, 2024
PV Tech's coverage of the SNEC 2024 trade show continues on day two, kicking off with a discussion with GCL System Integration.
June 14, 2024
PV Tech Premium looks at FERC's recent ruling on Order 1920 and how it will affect transmission planning in the future.
June 13, 2024
A new report from Ember Climate has found that cumulative global solar manufacturing capacity will almost double solar deployment by 2030.
June 13, 2024
US solar technology company Swift Solar has secured US$27 million to develop its perovskite tandem solar cell manufacturing.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
July 2, 2024
Athens, Greece
Solar Media Events
July 9, 2024
Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Singapore
Solar Media Events
September 24, 2024
Warsaw, Poland
Solar Media Events
September 24, 2024
Singapore, Asia