The trade authority of the European Union (EU), the European Commission (EC), has opened a probe into Chinese solar panel prices in a move that could potentially back efforts by SolarWorld AG and industry lobby group EU ProSun to block unfair and destructive dumping from China.
The EC has confirmed that it is reviewing the current minimum import price agreement, due to expire on Dec. 7 this year, stating in its Official Journal on Tuesday that spot prices excluding Chinese prices may be used as a benchmark, if made available by the Bloomberg database.
According to the EC, there are no technical obstacles to using a benchmark that excludes Chinese prices, hence subject to the appropriate procedures the Commission states that it would be technically possible to use spot prices on solar panels that exclude Chinese prices as a benchmark.
This probe was requested last week by EU ProSun, and is the latest spat in an ongoing skirmish between representatives of Europes solar industry, and China, which has been accused of dumping solar panels into Europe at below-market prices.
The EC report said that the sufficient evidence submitted by the applicant [EU ProSun] suggests that the existing benchmark is no longer representative of the development of the prices for crystalline silicon PV modules.
The minimum import price for Chinese solar modules was agreed at the end of 2013 and is reviewed quarterly. EU ProSun has been seeking an extension of the protection agreement, which is due to lapse towards the end of this year.
In China, news of the probe was greeted with trepidation by some analysts. Chen Jie, director of the solar energy sector at the Shenhua National Institute of Clean and Low Carbon Energy, told China Daily that the EU could limit further the annual quota of Chinese solar modules and cells should the EC probe find further fault.
The EU could also impose heavy anti-dumping duties in Chinese products concerned in a repeat of previous disputes, but the final sanctions depend on the market demand for solar products in Europe, said Jie.
Given current economic conditions, the EU is considering cutting back subsidies for the solar panel industry. As a result, it may impose a large fine on Chinese firms to compensate solar companies in Europe.