A United European Solar Sector

By James Watson, CEO of SolarPower Europe

November 2016

In the past few weeks there has been an increased focus on the ongoing Expiry Review of the trade case on solar panels and cells imported to the EU from China. The European Commission is currently assessing the evidence they have collected from various and numerous stakeholders, before disclosing their recommendations on how to go forward.

As you will all know, the SolarPower Europe Board unanimously moved to call for the end of the trade measures last year in March. Since then we have been heavily engaged in the case from the Interim Review on the methodology of the Minimum Import Price (MIP), through the circumvention investigation through to today’s Expiry Review. The recommendation of the European Commission is expected before the end of this year. Although they have until March 2017 to make a proposal. The Member States of the European Union must then approve or reject the proposal of the Commission.

In the past weeks, 407 European solar companies from all 28 European Union Member States signed a statement calling for the trade measures to be removed in the interest of the European Union. This followed an initiative of 36 Solar and Renewable Associations from 21 countries across the European Union in July calling for the measures to be removed. More recently several European NGOs, including CAN Europe, WWF and Greenpeace, also wrote to the European Commission calling for the end of the measures to support the EU in meeting its climate targets.

It appears to us in SolarPower Europe that there is much momentum growing behind the movement to end the duties under the ‘Union Interest’ argument permitted by the European Commission. The European solar sector appears as united as it has in the last 5 years since this case came over the horizon. After years of duties, there has been no benefit recorded in the European solar sector. In relation to this SolarPower Europe will publish its annual state of module and cell manufacturing in Europe 2016 report, and sadly we are not expecting better news than last year – where capacities shrank year-on-year.

Therefore, we can conclude that the trade measures are not doing what they were supposed to be doing – rebuilding a module and cell industry in Europe. We would, of course, like to see a healthy module and cell segment in Europe. However, we must have the right tools to get the right investment moving in Europe. That is why we are also working with the European Commission today to find the right policies to develop the supply side in an investor-friendly manner.

The European solar market is likely to be growing again very soon and thus we need to make sure that we have the right means to benefit from this growth and develop jobs in key solar value chain segments. We are working with the European Commission to make sure there is a market, but we are also engaging with them on the development of a framework to support all segments of the upstream value chain – from factory equipment to balance of systems, as well as the downstream segments. As this develops we will indeed inform the membership and look for support to develop the right policies to make sure that we can move forward as a united sector for solar in Europe.

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