German-Chinese module price gap narrowing

19. July 2013 | Global PV markets, Industry & Suppliers, Investor news, Markets & Trends, Trade cases | By:  Ilias Tsagas

Module and inverter trader says trade war and consequent lack of Chinese imports is closing the price gap between German and Chinese products. But spot market availability of fire-sale modules can skew figures, warns analyst.

Karel de Gucht.

While EC trade commissioner Karel de Gucht's Brussels delegation continues to haggle with Chinese counterparts, the difference in price between European and Chinese modules is narrowing.

Prices for crystalline solar modules from Europe and China are converging, says Pvxchange GmbH, a Cologne-based module and inverter marketplace.

The ongoing anti-dumping trade wrangle, and resulting shortage of Chinese goods in Europe, is slowly narrowing the price gap at the heart of the dispute.

Pvxchange says there was a 44.4 per cent difference in average module prices from Germany and China in May and that gap had narrowed to 37.5 per cent on Wednesday, leaving German products, on the spot market at least, only a third more expensive than Chinese.

However, Martin Schachinger of Pvxchange said a representative price survey of different cell types is becoming more and more difficult.

"On the one hand, there are only a few different technologies left on the market," he said. "On the other hand, larger remnants from bankruptcies or clearances emerge on the spot market. They can set a single price point and they are able to greatly distort the overall picture at the same time."

Schachinger cited cadmium-telluride modules as an example. Manufacturer First Solar, Schachinger says, is the only important supplier but the company tries to install its modules in its own projects. As a result, the only products freely available on the market are remnants from former distributors. Leftover products from the insolvencies of First Solar competitors can be sold at very low prices due to missing guarantees and return facilities.

Regarding crystalline modules from China, Schachinger added Pvxchange: "currently would have to specify two very different prices for duty-paid goods and for undeclared goods.

"An end to this 'dual system', with all its consequences, is not in sight. Although China increases the pressure by continuously launching new anti-dumping investigations – for example regarding European wine, steel and chemicals – the EU has so far refused to buckle.

"Accordingly, a further gradual increase in prices can be expected. Right now it is also almost impossible to get a binding quote from a manufacturer for deliveries in September or October. Long term was yesterday, flexibility and decisiveness is the need of the hour to snag some of the last few inexpensive modules in the market."

In its June spot market solar modules price index, Pvxchange reported Chinese crystalline products cost €0.56/Wp (US$0.73/Wp) and German modules €0.77/Wp. In comparison, the January spot price index reported Chinese modules cost €0.53/Wp and German ones €0.78/Wp.

The Pvxchange spot market price index has provided monthly information for crystalline and thin film modules since March 2010 and is available here.

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