SolarPower Europe: SolarWorld bankruptcy marks “sad day for Europe”

SolarPower Europe CEO James Watson described yesterday’s bankruptcy announcement from SolarWorld as representing a “sad day” for solar in Europe. He noted that “whilst SolarWorld and SolarPower Europe have never seen eye-to-eye on the trade issue, the bankruptcy of the leading European manufacturer is a loss to the European PV sector.”

Watson said that SolarWorld’s insolvency proves that the EU solar trade measures, such as antidumping and anti-subsidy tariffs against Chinese PV cells and modules, were “not beneficial for anyone.” As an alternative method by which PV manufacturing in Europe could be supported, Watson suggests the development of a European industrial strategy, including support for cleantech component production such as solar cells or modules.

“SolarPower Europe strongly believes in an industrial base in Europe,” said Watson. “We have been pushing the European Commission for such an industrial strategy for Europe since last June or July, and this [SolarWorld’s bankruptcy] proves that we need one.”

“It is necessary that we maintain an industry here and there are other companies, like Solarwatt, that have developed and gone into new technologies to survive and move forwards, but trade measures are not the right measures to drive investment in Europe.”

Watson added that there are existing support mechanisms that could potentially be accessed by solar producers in Europe, but that here too, work needs to be done. “We need to improve the accessibility of existing [support] measures,” said Watson. “If we had all worked towards this rather than a one-size-fits-all trade measure, then we could have avoided this disaster.”

Regarding the existing trade measures in place within the EU against Chinese producers, Watson said that they will remain in place for the next 16 months, but that it is possible that they will expire after that time. For an extension of the trade measures, EU ProSun, the pro-tariff lobby group, would have to apply by September 2018 to the EC for an expiry review to be carried out.

“I saw the EU ProSun response [to SolarWorld’s bankruptcy yesterdy] that it would go on and fight, but I am not sure how possible that is,” said Watson. “Even if there were three or four companies supporting ProSun, it was really only SolarWorld that was putting any money in. So how will ProSun prosecute this, because lawyers won’t work for free.”

SolarPower Europe is expecting around 8 GW of solar to be installed in Europe in 2017.