Silence greeted adoption of EU-China price commitments

Reaction was muted across the European solar industry after today’s announcement that EU member states had accepted the terms of a proposed solution to the EU-China solar module trade row.

The lack of announcements from the various trade bodies ranged either side of the tariff debate perhaps reflected the lack of detail in today’s confirmation that Europe’s political leaders had rubber-stamped the agreement thrashed out by trade commissioner Karel de Gucht this week.

An EU source told pv magazine it is standard practice for exact details of any price commitments in such a dispute to stay under wraps, leaving the industry to speculate over whether the rumored minimum Chinese module price of €0.56/W ($US0.74/W) is accurate. Details are also unclear over the amount negotiated between commissioner de Gucht and his Chinese Ministry of Commerce counterpart for a cap on the annual volume of module exports from China to Europe.

Amid such lack of detail, only the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) stuck its head above the parapet this afternoon, although with the organization caught between a rock and hard place as it numbers both sides of the tariff debate among its members, this afternoon’s press statement was similarly light on detail.

Preisdent Winfried Hoffmann was unavailable to explain how to square his comment that ‘the trade conflict has demonstrated that the development of a sustainable global PV market depends both on fair and free market conditions’ with the agreement by Chinese manufacturers to a minimum module price – anything but a free market move, presumably.

The EPIA press statement goes on to admit the organization ‘has maintained a neutral position in this case (and in other trade cases affecting the sector) and will continue to do so’, adding that it is happy to work with policymakers.

Elsewhere, there was silence from the pro-tariff EU ProSun group which has announced it will prepare a legal challenge to the trade agreement, which it says does not go far enough to protect European manufacturers.

There was also no comment from the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE), which says artificially pegging a minimum price will hit projects for solar developers across the EU by making many too expensive.

Similarly, the UK solar industry trade body the Solar Trade Association (STA), which this week called upon the UK government to adjust its solar incentives to cancel out the ‘EU meddling’ which it says will drive up the price of solar projects, with all three industry bodies unavailable for comment.