EU ProSun blames European solar job losses on Chinese companies

More shots have been fired in the EU trade measures dispute involving Chinese PV manufacturers. The usual suspects have been championing their respective stances on the trade measures, as EU ProSun calls for hasher enforcement, prompting SolarPower Europe to again calls for the measures to be brought to an end.

The trade barriers in question are a minimum import price (MIP) and anti-dumping measures, which were introduced by the EU against Chinese PV manufacturers in 2013, as a means to protect the European solar industry. SolarWorld has always been the most vocal supporter of the trade measures – as a European module manufacturer – and so has the SolarWorld-backed organization Prosun, whose president, Milan Nitzschke, is also the vice president of SolarWorld.

A new wave of dumping

In its most recent attack on the practices of Chinese PV manufacturers, ProSun claimed that state-backed overproduction of solar modules in China is causing a new wave of dumping, which, in turn, is causing job losses in the solar industry all over the world, and especially in Europe. Unsurprisingly, it pointed to SolarWorld letting go of 500 temporary staff earlier in the week as proof to back up its claim.

The organization blames this on failed state planning on the part of the Chinese government, which is resulting in Chinese selling modules for prices below manufacturing costs in Europe. Going further, ProSun claims that the Chinese government is actively encouraging further manufacturing expansions and supporting the construction of new solar manufacturing factories.

“The EU urgently needs to enforce its antidumping and circumvention rules because Chinese manufactures are fudging and cheating to circumvent anti-dumping measures,” said Milan Nitzschke, President of EU ProSun. “Their aim is simply to increase sales in Europe by all means and to push competitors out of the market. China is playing with Europe as though it were nothing but a ping-pong ball.”

The other side of the coin

EU ProSun’s announcement should be taken in context, as the organization has often acted as the mouthpiece of SolarWorld, who is desperate to keep the measures again Chinese manufacturers to protect its own business interests. However, not all parties within the European solar industry have the same opinion, with a large number in favor of getting rid of the trade measures all together.

In July, the SolarPower Europe trade association led a consortium of 34 European solar and renewable energy organizations that put forth the case to end the trade measures against China. The consortium sent a letter to the European Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstrom, stating that the measures are counterproductive and having a negative effect on the European solar industry, calling for the trade barriers to be dropped immediately.

In response to today’s statement from EU ProSun, SolarPower Europe James Watson told pv magazine that the biggest losses of jobs in the European solar industry have been from the downstream sector, and that these were during the years that the trade measures have been in place. Many jobs could be created if the duties were removed, as it would stimulate solar development with competitive prices, while Watson also noted that most of the European solar value chain opposes the duties.

“We know that the job losses in the European solar sector have occurred mainly in the downstream segment, perhaps even 100,000 jobs have gone in the past 5 years,” Watson explained to pv magazine. “This has largely been a period covered by the trade duties. As solar system costs come down what we are seeing is that these trade tariffs are stifling growth of solar in Europe, a study by EY at the end of last year forecast 50,000 new European jobs could be created all along the value chain – if the duties were removed.

“The only way forward to return the solar value chain in Europe to growth – both in terms of solar deployment and jobs – is to end the trade measures,” concluded Watson. All eyes will be on the European Commission at the beginning of 2017, when it is due to make a recommendation on the trade measures.