Frequently Asked Questions
EU ProSun is an initiative of European photovoltaic manufacturers who united in order to promote PV technology and the sustainable growth of the European solar industry, as well as urge the European Commission to restore a level playing field with China. We represent a significant proportion of European producers, who have partly decided to publicly express their support, together with a number of anonymous supporters who are principally concerned about the negative consequences they might face if their identities are revealed.
EU ProSun stands for sustainable energy production in the EU and to increase the share of renewable energy sources in Europe, in line with the EU 2020 goals. Thanks to photovoltaic technology the number of fossil and other hazardous energy sources can be gradually reduced and the environmental impact of energy production minimized. Members of EU ProSun urge the European Commission to restore a level-playing field with China by means of anti-dumping duties. The aim of these duties is not to introduce any additional barriers, but merely to neutralize the harmful dumping and subsidy practices of the Chinese government. Once those practices are neutralized and Chinese producers have to sell their products at a fair price, the European manufacturers are happy to compete with the Chinese products just as they compete with producers from other countries.
European PV manufacturing is an outstanding example of a successful high-tech industry with a great potential. Recently the existence of European manufacturing industry is however in danger due to Chinese products flooding the European market with underpriced products, causing European producers to go bankrupt every month. PV manufacturers from Europe are perfectly competitive with any solar producers in the world, but should not be forced to compete with the illegally dumped and subsidized imports supported by the Chinese government.
Free trade and competition, as long as they are fair, contribute to the development of the solar industry globally. In order to stay competitive against products from other countries, European manufacturers constantly invest in R&D to improve the technology level of the PV equipment and reduce production costs. Thanks to free trade and fair competition the European products are now much more efficient than only a few years ago. Photovoltaics also constantly become more affordable thanks to the improvement of production technology.
Chinese manufacturers, with the assistance of government subsidies, are selling their PV products at unfairly low prices to push the European producers out of their domestic market and seize market share. If they gain a de facto monopoly of the European and international PV market, eventually there will be no more incentive for Chinese producers to further sell below price, hence the prices eventually will have to go up. European consumers will benefit most from undistorted trade and fair competition, which drive innovation and affordability.
It should also not be forgotten that if the European photovoltaic industry ceases to exist, thousands of European employees in manufacturing, but also in research and other branches will lose their jobs.
EU Prosun expects that the introduction of trade defence instruments will have an immediate impact on Chinese PV prices, as Chinese producers will be prevented from selling under their real production costs. However, European producers do not intend to raise their prices, on the contrary, we foresee that the prices will continue to diminish. According to a recent study by AT Kearney, PV system prices could decline by 36-51% in all countries and over all segments over the next 10 years. PV has already shown impressive price reductions over the last 20 years with the price of PV modules decreasing by over 20% every time the cumulative sold volume of PV modules has doubled. The average price of a PV module in Europe in July 2011 was about 70% lower than 10 years ago.
In all new high-tech industries there is a downward trend in prices. This is a natural development, since production methods and technology improve over time. With increased demand companies benefit from economies of scale and more competitors appear on the market. EU ProSun’s goal is not to stop this development, but to bring it back to its natural pace. There will still be intensive technology and price competition with producers from other countries, such as the US, Canada, Japan, but also South Korea, India, Thailand and of course China – all that the EU ProSun members ask for is that this competition is fair.
Solar industry in China has a special advantage since it is listed in the 12th Five Year Plan of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government strongly subsidises the solar industry, which leads to production overcapacity and allows for dumping practices. It was decided centrally that the Chinese solar industry should become world leaders. During the 11th Five Year Plan (2005-10), China's solar panel production grew at more than 100% annually. The country's total output reached 21,5 gW in 2011 (in 2010 it was 11,5gW), accounting for two-thirds of global production.
This Year the Chinese government placed a new special focus on solar industry to dominate global production. Massive Chinese solar production does not correspond to the demand for Chinese PV products worldwide. Many companies in Europe already went bankrupt and others cannot compete with the goals set and enforced by the Chinese government. A level playing field has to be established before it is too late.
First of all, the members of EU ProSun have been working in the solar manufacturing business for many years. Using the experience and knowledge of raw material prices and production costs, it is not difficult to calculate the minimum price of the materials and the cost of their processing into wafers, cells and/or modules. Chinese prices do not reflect those costs, even taking into consideration the fact that labour and administration costs in China are considerably lower. The cost of producing a wafer, cell or module is composed to a great extent by the costs of silicone and raw materials. Labour accounts for less than 10% of total production costs. According to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories in the United States, Chinese manufacturers have even a price disadvantage against American manufacturers when transportation is added to the production cost.
Secondly, in the Five Year Plan, the Chinese government not only specified the volume of solar products to be manufactured in China, but even set the prices – the goal for the manufacturing cost was set at 0.87 Euro/Wp by 2015. By 2020 the cost should further diminish to 0.62 Euro/Wp. Some Chinese companies due to overproduction and oversupply already today sell their products in Europe below 0.50 Euro/Wp, which goes far below the goals set by the government for 2020. In normal, free market conditions, companies selling at a considerable constant loss would be deemed to go bankrupt, however in China this doesn’t happen due to endless subsidies.
Last but not least, an investigation into the possible Chinese dumping and illegal subsidies practices concerning photovoltaic products imported into the United States was recently concluded with the results that the Chinese producers indeed sold below their production costs.
In October 2011 the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing filed anti-dumping and countervailing duty petitions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) against Chinese crystalline solar cell and panel imports. Departmet of Commerce made its final determination on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties in October 2012. The duties sum up to 30,66 percent for most Chinese producers, 35,97 percent for Suntech and 23,75 percent for Trina Solar and hence go beyond the preliminary duties established in May 2012. On 7 November the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has unanimously determined that Chinese photovoltaic imports materially injured the U.S. industry.
The US decisions confirm the existence of China’s unfair trade practices and dumping to an unreasonably high extent. This is a positive signal for the European industry, since it gives us hope that the European investigation will also have a positive outcome for European manufacturers.