European solar manufacturers are today launching EU ProSun, a new initiative to maintain a sustainable and vibrant solar manufacturing base in Europe.
Milan Nitzschke, President of EU ProSun commented: “We strongly believe in Europe‘s solar future. Therefore, this week we officially requested that the European Commission investigate unfair trade practices by Chinese solar manufacturers. Chinese companies have captured over 80% of the EU market for solar products from virtually zero only a few years ago. EU manufacturers have the world‘s best solar technologies but are beaten in their home market due to illegal dumping of Chinese solar products below their cost of production.“
EU ProSun is a group of more than 20 European companies representing the majority of EU solar industrial production. This strategic industry for Europe’s future is being decimated by unfair competition from China leading to layoffs, and one major European solar bankruptcy every month. Unless the EU takes action, there will no longer be any manufacturing or R&D solar jobs left in Europe.
Nitzschke said “Not only is China clearly dumping cheap solar products in the EU but the government readily admits to subsidising its solar manufacturers for exports. China has no natural cost advantage over the EU given labour accounts for around 10% of production costs, and it must import raw materials and equipment to produce their solar cells and modules.“
The US government recently determined that 12 categories of Chinese subsidies for its solar manufacturers were illegal, and that Chinese exporters have dumped solar cells in the USA at margins between 30% and 250%. The US Department of Energy estimates that the Chinese government has provided its solar manufacturers with more than €25 billion of subsidies including low interest loans, free land, and subsidised energy. The US decisions confirm the existence of China’s unfair trade practices and increase the likelihood of significant trade defence measures in the EU, especially as the US measures make it likely that Chinese exports will be diverted to the EU.
Any measures to level the EU playing field will in any event not halt the long term downward trend in module prices. A recent study by AT Kearney showed that solar system prices could decline by 50% across the EU by 2020. Over the last 20 years the price of solar modules decreased by over 20% every time the volume of solar modules doubled. As the price of solar installation continues to decline sustainably, EU ProSun expects demand and local installation jobs to increase accordingly.
Nitzschke concluded: “European industry does not want to increase prices but rather stop the current ruinous race to the bottom. If the EU acts quickly, we have a chance to maintain a sustainable solar manufacturing base in Europe for the benefit of jobs, growth, innovation and the planet.“