AFASE: Punitive PV tariffs put 30,000 European jobs in danger


The imposition of punitive tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers could lead to massive job losses, says the organization. The Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE) has calculated that over the next three years, around 30,000 jobs could be sacrificed.

In Germany alone, study author Oliver Ehrentraut predicts that until 2015 approximately 8,000 jobs both in and outside of the solar industry are at risk. In the same period, the economic loss could total €13.4 billion across all EU countries.

The study has taken various scenarios into consideration, including tariffs of 20, 35 and 60%. In the case of anti-dumping (AD) and anti-subsidy, or countervailing (CV) duties, module prices in Europe are forecast to increase in Europe, and demand for photovoltaic products decrease.

This is likely to lead to declining employment in the solar industry, which would result in less demand for such services as planning, installation or maintenance. According to Ehrentraut, a total of 140 million jobs would be lost in the five major European markets – Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the U.K. – and not just in the solar industry.

AFASE chairman and European head of Canadian Solar, Gregory Spanoudakis described EU ProSun’s calls for punitive tariffs of up to 120% for Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers as "outrageous". He warned that the success of photovoltaics on its path to grid parity would again be called into question.

Spanoudakis has further accused EU ProSun of having worked with false information in its AD and CVD applications submitted to the EU. It is now up to the EU in the course of the proceedings to bring the truth to light, he said.

At the same time, he pointed out that governments around the world would help their solar industries. Moreover, the Chinese companies have collected the most money through the stock market and through private equity. And, in the opinion of the Canadian Solar boss, the demand for punitive tariffs is an attempt by European photovoltaic manufacturers to compensate for their own shortcomings.

Spanoudakis also contends that European manufacturers over the past decade had great benefits through long-term contracts in the procurement of silicon. Now the price has fallen dramatically since 2009, which has in turn allowed the Chinese producers to supply cheap silicon.

Additionally, the equipment of the European photovoltaic companies is often older and their capacities much lower, continued Spanoudakis. In China, the market leaders boast a capacity of 2 GW or more; in Europe there is no manufacturer of this size.

CEO of Soventix, Thorsten Preugschas also warned of the huge impacts punitive tariffs would have on photovoltaic markets in western Europe. The solar industry is currently at the threshold of adulthood. Looking at the prices for modules, he said: Following the price decline of 75% in recent months, a lower limit has been reached. This is also showed in the bankruptcies of various photovoltaic manufacturers in recent times.

"Punitive tariffs would hurt the industry and massively weaken it," stated Preugschas. "Solar modules would thus again be made artificially more expensive." He therefore appealed to the representatives of the solar industry to keep an eye on their own mission: to provide electricity from renewable sources at reasonable prices.

Preugschas pointed out that in around 12 years, the first photovoltaic plants will no longer be eligible for Germany’s EEG (renewable energy law), however, their expected 20 year lifetime will be significantly longer.

Therefore, in his view, the current debate about increasing electricity prices is far too short. "With the EEG, politicians have, for the first time. the possibility to create a long-term basis for cost-effective electricity," he concluded.

Translated and edited by Becky Beetz.

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