Polysilicon prices may have stabilized after a five-month rally that began in early 2021, according to polysilicon specialist Johannes Bernreuter of Bernreuter Research, which reports that the price of the raw material rose by around 160% from US$11/kg at the beginning of the year to $28.50/kg currently.
The analyst also explained, however, that based on most data providers for this market segment, the price of polysilicon rose just 1% on June 9, following the SNEC trade show in Shanghai last week. “It looks like the threshold of pain has been reached for many end customers now,” the analyst explained. “Large utility-scale projects are already being pushed out into 2022.”
The market research company pointed out that the price hike for polysilicon was also the result of panic buying by manufacturers of wafers, cells and modules that, in the hope of hedging against further price increases, decided to buy as much polysilicon as possible, under what the analyst defines as a “hoarding impulse.”
According to its analysis, wafer, cell and module makers had two options to compensate for the polysilicon price increase by either accepting lower margins or passing the higher costs onto final customers. “Wafer manufacturers were able to pass the increase almost completely onto cell producers in the first quarter,” Bernreuter highlighted. “In April and May, however, the rally accelerated so rapidly that even wafer manufacturers had to give up some of their margins.”
Solar cell producers, by contrast, are described as the big losers of this market phase as they were able to raise the prices of their products by up to $0.017/W. “But that comes after a decrease of 1.2 cents/W in the first quarter; so they caught up by 2.9 cents/W in April and May,” the analyst stated.
As for module manufacturers, which also faced higher freight costs, they rose their price by up to 11% between January and May. The share of polysilicon in panel costs, however, increased to 35%.
The analyst concluded that the price spiral may be broken by the drop in final global demand. “If, however, lingering fears of lower polysilicon supply due to maintenance overhauls in the third quarter should flare up again, a new round of price increases could set in.”
*The article was amended to reflect that the share of polysilicon in panel costs increased to 35%, and not by 35% as we previously reported.
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