An investigation at China’s National Energy Agency might delay PV programs

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The National Energy Administration (NEA), sometimes together with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) or Ministry of Finance, handles multiple energy policies, such as the announcements in May to reduce solar subsidies and scale back PV deployment.

Reuters has reported that the Chinese government investigation of NEA director, Nur Bekri, also the deputy chairman of the NDRC, joins a string of energy official corruption probes since President Xi Jinping took office in 2013.

Although Bekri’s alleged disciplinary violations have not been announced, previously sacked officials have been charged with taking bribes and other crimes.

“It’s a bad news to China PV industry,” Morgan Kuo, executive advisor at WiSolPro Consulting in Taiwan, told pv magazine.

Kuo said several important program decisions, such as the release of solar subsidies originally scheduled for last year, and details on size and location of PV projects for the country’s expected fourth round of the Top Runner program, could be delayed by a lack of leadership.

A source at a PV manufacturer in mainland China, speaking on condition of anonymity, told pv magazine that he expects stability until a new NEA director is put in place, when policy could have minor improvements, although he is a little worried about possible effects on China’s Top Runner Program, which had its third round formally announced back in December 2017.

According to the source, it is “difficult” to obtain permits for ordinary projects, but the Top Runner Program releases a large volume all at once. It is under the jurisdiction of the NEA.

Not all are convinced that there will be much effect on industry by the investigation, however.

Liutong Zhang, director of energy and gas consultancy, WaterRock Energy Economics in Hong Kong described the NEA’s decision-making process as “opaque”, but said the Top Runner program was never officially announced as an annual program.

He added that the delay in releasing subsidies was partly due to personnel changes in the government agencies and grid companies in the past half year. He expects a decision on releasing subsidies to be made soon.

A source at another PV manufacturer in mainland China, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told pv magazine the situation won’t affect overall PV industry development. A single person or small group from the NEA can just be replaced, he said.

By Andrew Silver