3: PV’s day of judgement

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The biggest stories in July centered around China and the effect its policy changes were having on the rest of the PV world. In her monthly column, independent energy analyst Corinne Lin discussed the fallout: decreasing utilization rates and serious oversupply; and a focus on equipment upgrades, particularly for PERC, SE, half cut and bifiacial technologies. The industry will bounce back in 2019, however, she concluded.

In a Q&A with BloombergNEF, two solar analysts told pv magazine that they saw no PV module price rebound, but continued oversupply and falling utilization rates. They said Q4 could be a “hot market” for contract negotiations, while Chinese developers will start overseas construction earlier than planned.

TrendForce said it expected overcapacity to force some solar players to abandon their business or file for bankruptcy. IHS Markit, meanwhile, saw further price declines and consolidation in the third quarter, although it did forecast signs of a speedy recovery.

Following on from news of inverter tariffs under Section 301, the United States this month proposed tariffs of 10% for inverters, AC modules and non-lithium batteries from China. A decision is expected soon.

Finally, in Lebanon, 75 submissions for the government’s up to 300 MW solar-plus-storage tender, announced back in February, were received.

RIP

In an unexpectedly early announcement – August 31 – the European Commission announced an end of EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures on solar PV cells and modules from China. It took effect at midnight on September 3.

Before this, however, the U.S. President reared his ugly head again, calling for trade officials to consider increasing import duties from 10% to 25% on a list of products from China, including inverters, AC modules and non-lithium batteries. He also re-imposed sanctions on Iran, thus placing around 5 GW of renewable energy projects in jeopardy.

PV InfoLink published its H1 2018 global PV module shipment ranking, which saw JinkoSolar leading, followed by JA Solar and Longi Solar. It further noted that Chinese manufacturers continue to dominate the market, while monocrystalline module shipments increased sharply. Overall, it forecasted that total PV demand will top 83 GW this year.

In Egypt, two bids under $0.03/kWh were received for the government’s 200 MW solar tender. Saudi energy giant ACWA Power lowered its offer to $0.02752/kWh at the last minute, beating a bid lodged by Spain’s Fotowatio, which offered $0.02791 per kWh. The Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company (EETC) said it was reviewing a total of four bids. The selected developer will be granted a 25-year PPA with EETC, and the plant will be installed in the Aswan region.

A first for the country, Colombia announced a technology neutral renewable energy auction for projects over 10 MW in size. Up to 1 GW was expected to be up for grabs when it opened in January. Will the plans make it that far though?

In line with other analysts, GTM Research stated this month that China’s PV policy changes, will “severely impact” global PV demand in the short term, although a rebound is expected in Q4 and 2019. Overall, it sees global demand in 2018 falling to 85.2 GW of new installs versus its previous prediction of 103.5 GW, and down from the just under 100 GW installed in 2017. By 2020, this should have again grown, to reach a record >120 GW. It also laid out 10 predictions for solar PV going forward.

Meanwhile, according to a new report published by BloombergNEF, cumulative global EV sales have reached four million.

Remember when we said that there was more interesting news to come out of Tesla? Well, it really kicked off this month, when Elon Musk took to Twitter to announce he was planning to take the company private. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) came sniffing, and just days later, he scrapped those plans. This was not to be the end of this particular drama, however. Perhaps to redirect attention, news also emerged that the company had secured 210 acres in Shanghai for its first international Gigafactory.

Day of judgment

The day of judgment for the long-threatened tariffs on imports of inverters from China arrived in September, and it was as bad or worse than many in the industry feared. As announced by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. President Donald Trump on September 18, the United States is imposing tariffs on roughly $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, including inverters and non-lithium batteries, through Section 301. They started on September 24 at 10%, and will increase to 25% on January 1, 2019.

The results of Jordan’s round 3 solar PV auction, where 150 MW of solar PV and 50 MW of wind capacity are up for grabs, were announced. Jinko Power (HK) Company Limited submitted the lowest bid of $0.02488/kWh. Jinko, along with two other companies, are now in pole position to be awarded projects. A final decision will be made after the financial offers have been validated, among other things. They could be waiting for a while however.

In an interview with pv magazine this month, CEO and founder of Energy Peace Partners described how solar has the potential to foster peace and aid conflict resolution by being deployed in several of the world’s crisis areas.

Finally, Taiwan’s PV manufacturers found themselves struggling following on from China’s 31/5 policy change. In the first of a series of similar announcements, Motech said it had laid off 300 employees and adjusted production capacities. Sino-American Silicon Products Inc. (SAS), meanwhile, said it was considering exiting the wafer business if “there are no breakthroughs in technology or demand in the coming two years.”

Read all about the solar goings on in Q1, Q2; and watch out for the final part of the 2018 PV year in review, out on December 28.