4 Sept 2018
Jubilation Among Importers as Notices are Published Officially Ending Hefty Duties on Solar Panels
The Commission additionally confirmed the expiry on its website. It stated that “after considering the needs of both producers and those using or importing solar panels the Commission decided it was in the best interests of the EU as a whole to let the measures lapse”.
The EU decision was greeted with relief and delight by trade association SolarPower Europe, which referred to it as “a watershed moment” which will “unleash a new solar age in Europe”.
Dr Christian Westermeier, President of SolarPower Europe, has proclaimed that “the Commission’s move to end the trade measures is unquestionably the right one for Europe, we expect to see a significant increase in solar jobs and deployment, which will only propel the energy transition in Europe”.
CEO of SolarPower Europe, James Watson, welcomed the decision, stating that “the trade measures have made solar much more expensive than necessary in Europe; by removing them, solar will now be the cheapest form of electricity in many EU countries – this means that many more consumers and national governments will be able to invest in solar”.
Back in May this year, Dr Christian Westermeier had already publicly urged the EU to end import duties, claiming that they are holding off a “jobs bonanza” in the sector. Putting an end to the minimum import price would, according to Dr Westermeier, create an additional 40,000 jobs in Europe – on top of the existing 80,000 jobs currently being held by the solar PV sector. Westermeier is reported to have pointed to a study by the European Commission’s own DG for Justice and Consumers, which found that terminating the trade defence measures would boost household solar use by up to 30% in some EU countries – “just for rooftops”. “This is a huge job machine,” he claimed, “and this is predominantly important for countries in Southern Europe where there is a lot of sunshine and a lot of youth unemployment”.
On the other hand, the decision to allow the measures on Chinese-origin imports of solar panels to expire has been met with fury by European producers of solar panels. The EU is reportedly being accused of ignoring “basic” trade rules due to the lifting of import restrictions on Chinese-made solar panels. EU ProSun, the association of EU solar panel producers, had already claimed that European manufacturers would be devastated should the measures end. The president of EU ProSun, Milan Nitzschke, stated that “While other big markets such as the US, India, Canada, or Turkey are implementing strict measures against being flooded by dumped Chinese-produced solar modules, the EU is going to terminate its existing anti-dumping measures and throwing open the doors to its market.” He continued that “to reject the legitimate request of the EU industry for an expiry review violates basic EU trade defence law”, and “most of all, it jeopardises a heritage of 30 years of technological development undertaken by the EU’s solar manufacturing industry and severely damages 40 manufacturing companies operating in 17 European Member States.
Hong Kong’s solar panel producers with interests in mainland China will recall that the EU had decided to impose the trade defence measures in 2013. At that time, the Commission had said that the decision was “life-saving oxygen” for European solar panel manufacturers. It had been estimated that around 25,000 jobs could be lost within the EU industry in the absence of measures.
There has always been controversy, bringing about trade tensions with mainland China, surrounding the measures. In March 2017, after consulting with Member States, the Commission “exceptionally” took the decision to prolong the 2013 measures for a further 18 months (rather than the usual five years). It was believed to be a compromise between the EU industry and EU users and importers. Users and importers wanted to acquire the solar panels being imported at prices that were felt to be closer to the reality of the global marketplace.
The level of the measures has gradually decreased over time to allow the prices of the imports into the EU to align progressively with world market prices.
Any new extension would have gone against the EU’s interests, an EU source has reportedly explained, claiming that such an imposition would harm importers and consumers. It was stated that “the market situation has not changed to the extent that this would justify a further extension of the measures now beyond the scheduled 18 months.”
In addition, the EU’s commitment to achieving at least a 27% share of renewable energy consumption by 2030 could well be hampered if the punitive tariffs remained in place, the Commission official continued.
The Commission disregarded a request to carry out an expiry review investigation, which had been filed by EU ProSun.