It’s coming way late in the game, but the European Commission has agreed to follow the US lead and impose tariffs on imports of Chinese solar panels.
Most of Europe’s big solar companies are no longer around because of low-cost Chinese competition. The leaders who started the mainstream solar business such Q-Cells and Millennium Solar are gone. It will help SolarWorld, however, who has been showing losses in recent quarters, as well as others – Europe-based firms still supply half the world’s panels.
The global market for solar systems is valued at $77 billion as of 2012, according to market research firm, IHS.
But the EU will levy provisional duties that average 47% by June 6, but there are plans to negotiate a solution before tariffs are finalized at year end. China is the EU’s second largest trading partner, in a time when exports are critical.
There’s talk of setting a minimum price for all solar panels sold in Europe, reports Reuters.
Right now, solar panels made in China cost 45% less than those made in Europe.
Between 2009-2011, Chinese solarmakers quadrupled production, flooding the world market with way more panels than there was demand. They now supply 80% of EU’s market, from practically nothing a few years earlier.
Last year, the US established duties, prompted by the US division of SolarWorld, who also petitioned the EU under the EU ProSun Group. Since then, Although imports to the US are significantly down from China, that’s because many manufacturers are buying solar cells in Taiwan, thus avoiding 34%-250% on tariffs (depending on the company).
Most Chinese manufacturers are suffering too now, such as Suntech, because of the oversupply they created.
"Despite their own losses, Chinese solar companies continue to sell their products below cost in Europe," EU ProSun Group says. "As in the US, European solar companies, which previously dominated the industry, are facing losses, if not bankruptcy because of Chinese competition."
Here’s our background on the Chinese solar tariffs.