Solarbuzz: China’s c-Si dominance unaffected by trade wars

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Repeated trade actions against Chinese PV manufacturers have failed to have any discernable impact in stopping the country’s industry dominating the global c-Si supply chain, according to analysts NPD Solarbuzz.

Writing in a blog post today, Solarbuzz US analyst, Michael Barker, said China had largely strengthened its grip on global upstream PV production in the past three years, despite efforts by other countries to claw back lost ground.

Barker compares China’s market share across the c-Si supply chain in Q4 2011, when the first trade case was launched against China, with projections for Q4 2014.

At both moments in time, China is the dominant player in all supply chain areas, and in all but one area in 2014 – c-Si PV cells – has seen its market share increase rather than the opposite.

And even in the area of c-Si cells Barker points out that what market share Chinese has lost since 2011 has simply been captured by Taiwan, a consequence of the 2012 US trade investigation.

Barker highlights how since 2011 trade investigations have been among the methods used by rival countries to correct the imbalance between China being the dominant upstream player and the fact that back then most end-market demand was coming from Europe.

“Non-Chinese manufacturers, facing an industry exposed to overcapacity and rapidly falling prices, were fighting for survival and trade complaints were one of the tools used to try and recover market share. Judging solely by the current industry snapshot, this method can be judged unsuccessful, as Chinese producers have increased production shares in the ingot/wafer and module segments,” Barker writes.

Another significant change over the period highlighted by Barker is the growth of China’s end market, which has now made China the world’s largest driver of downstream PV demand.

“While the overall supply/demand balance will change quarter-to-quarter, these two snapshots give an idea of how the industry has changed over the past three years and the effect, or lack thereof, of trade investigations on upstream production shares,” Barker concludes.

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