Global Green Battles
The Global Green War had started with the US imposing duties on imports of Chinese made solar panels and cells. Subsequently dumping charges were also imposed on wind energy equipment made in China as well. China has not been able to do much against these duties as it exports almost 80-90% of its solar products. Though the Government is investigating the charges of cheap polysilicon imports from the USA , the Government has refrained from taking any action till now. The Chinese Government perhaps realizes that it does not want to get into a full scale war with the US considering the massive trade surplus it runs. However the Chinese Government does not want to get run down and has started making bigger noises. Today the Government of China criticized US for unfairly subsidizing six green energy projects against WTO rules. Though no action has yet been taken, China is trying to up the ante with the USA as Chinese solar panel exports to the US have declined sharply.
The Global Solar World War is truly on now, with the Chinese Government starting investigation on the imports of solar polysilicon from Korean and US solar companies. Note, we had already predicted this some time back and listed the solar winners and losers in case the Chinese imposed duties.
The US imposition of duties on Solar panel imports from China has raised the hackles of the Chinese Government which considers the solar industry to be strategic to its future growth. While it will not affect the Chinese exports in a big way considering the easy workarounds, it has the potential of making the Chinese Government react negatively. The biggest losers could be the Polysilicon companies and Solar equipment suppliers based in the USA. Note China imports huge volumes of the polysilicon raw material used in solar panels from USA and South Korea. The reason being the the quality made in these countries is better and the costs are lower. With the polysilicon spot prices crashing to below cost, around as low as $20/kg levels, US and Korean companies are being forced to change their LT contracts which were stuck at higher levels.
China’s Commerce Ministry said six renewable-energy projects in five U.S. states have violated global trade rules, though it stopped short of announcing any penalties.
The ministry’s announcement Monday continues the tit-for-tat moves in the clean-energy sector pitting China against its two-largest trade partners, the U.S. and European Union. It comes as clean energy policy is becoming an issue in the U.S. presidential elections and demand for wind and solar-power equipment from Europe is falling.
China is also thinking about investigating polysilicon imports from Europe in addition to US and Korea. This is being done after Europe said it would investigate dumping of solar panels made in China. Note China is quite weak in the manufacturing of polysilicon with only a couple of companies being able to produce this raw material for solar panels cheaply. A number of small unprofitable firms have already closed down. High cost producers like LDK are already effectively bankrupt and only 3-4 companies in China remain alive.
The biggest Chinese solar panel producers like Sunech, Trina ,Yingli and Canadian Solar have come out strongly against the recent filing of a complaint of dumping of Chinese solar panels in Europe. Solarworld which is the biggest German solar panel company has led a group of 25 European solar companies in filing a complaint against the dumping of solar modules made in China. Note Solarworld had earlier successfully managed to champion an anti dumping duty on China made solar panels, in the USA. In recent days, the Chinese Government has initiated the process of paying back the USA in the same coin by starting an investigation of US polysilicon imports. While that had led to feeble protests from the Chinese biggies, they had already prepared workarounds for the anti dumping duty.
Europe to decide in 45 days the fate of the Chinese Solar Panel Industry
However if Europe finds the Chinese solar module manufacturers guilty and imposes special duties to protect the European solar industry, then the struggling Chinese solar panel makers like Suntech, LDK which have huge debt burdens and losses might shut down completely. Already there are rumors that LDK has been taken over unofficially by 3 state owned corporations as it continues to bleed money with no hope for revival anytime soon.
Europe accounts for almost 75% of the world’s demand of solar panels and has been instrumental in the growth of the Chinese solar industry. Note China accounts for less than 10% of the demand, while it supplies almost 60-70% of the global supply of solar panels. While the US was a small market comparatively, Europe is a huge market and the loss of this market will sound the death knell of the biggest Chinese companies.