SolarPower Europe welcomes UK's call for MIP suspension

Despite cutting public support for solar, the UK government has taken a public position in opposition to the temporary extension of the MIP undertaking currently inflating the price of solar module imports into Europe from Chinese manufacturers.

SolarPower Europe, the former European Photovoltaic Industry Association, says that the UK cannot veto the MIP. However it supports the UK’s argument that the MIP should not remain place during the expiry review process.

“In principle Leadsom makes a good point,” SolarPower Europe’s James Watson told pv magazine. “Why couldn’t the investigation take place during the last year of the scheduled duties, in 2015, rather than de facto extending the duties for another year while the [European] Commission determines whether they are needed.”

The EC has ruled that the MIP be extended throughout the period in which the expiry review is carried out. The review is expected to take around 12 months to complete, although it cannot exceed 15 months.

Leadsom made the comments this morning during an Oral Answers to Questions session of Parliament fronted by herself and Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Amber Rudd.

“The MIP is an unwelcome drain on the UK solar industry,” said Leadsom, in answer to a question from a fellow Conservative Party MP. “The Secretary of State made that point in her letter to the Trade Commissioner in November. Unfortunately, however, the decision to launch an expiry review is one for the Commission, not for member states.”

SolarPower Europe’s James Watson notes that while the UK cannot take unilateral action against the MIP, that if the EC’s expiry review finds that the Undertaking should not continue, that it will have been extended throughout 2016, “for no real reason.”

“Instead of a presumption for protectionism there should be a presumption for free and fair trade,” said Watson. “Hopefully other governments will come forward and express their views in a similar way, the more governments that act and let the Commission know they are opposed to the trade measures, the more likely they are to be persuaded to drop them.”

Watson notes that the Dutch government has already taken a position against the MIP, and that is aware of “at least five” other EU members that formally oppose the MIP.

The position of the UK government is in line with a cross-party group of Members of the European Parliament that called for an end to EU solar duties and the MIP in October 2015. It does, however, put it in opposition to the Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel who spoke in support of the trade measures during a visit to China in November of last year.