In recent months, module prices, have dropped more than 25%, hitting a record low of under €0.15/W for low-cost products. This break in the pre-pandemic price threshold is causing significant challenges, especially for European PV manufacturers. SolarPower Europe has cautioned in a letter to the European Commission that these record-low import prices for photovoltaics could jeopardize the EU's open strategic autonomy goals.
“While price drops are typically welcome news, if unchecked they have serious repercussions for our open strategic autonomy,” said Walburga Hemetsberger, the chair of SolarPower Europe. “In the short term, this is already posing real challenges to domestic competitiveness and the rebirth of EU solar manufacturing. We’re urgently calling on EU leaders to save Europe’s strategic tech supply lines.”
The association attributes the current situation to a “perfect storm” of market forces, with strong global demand and intense competition among Chinese photovoltaic suppliers leading to increased investments along the supply chains. Currently, there is approximately 600 GW of worldwide production capacity. This oversupply has resulted in a rapid decline in prices for raw materials like silicon and throughout the module, inverter, and battery supply chain, according to Solarpower Europe. Consequently, European manufacturers are struggling to sell their products, raising the risk of insolvencies, exemplified by the recent bankruptcy of Norwegian ingot manufacturer Norwegian Crystals.
ESMC's survey of 15 European photovoltaic manufacturers found that solar module production dropped from 9 GW to 1 GW year on year by the end of August. SolarPower Europe said that manufacturers face additional challenges due to a temporary slowdown in the European photovoltaics market in the third quarter, influenced by inflation and increasing bottlenecks in network connections and project approvals.
To address these issues, SolarPower Europe has called on the EU Commission to swiftly support the solar industry. Specific measures include the emergency purchase of module stocks from European photovoltaic manufacturers and the establishment of an EU-level bank for photovoltaic manufacturers to address shortcomings in state aid under the Temporary Transition and Crisis Framework (TCTF).
The association also advocates for the adoption of the Net Zero Industry Act, incorporating strict sustainability and resilience criteria in specific auctions. It also supports the EU Forced Labor Regulation's intended impact through the Solar Stewardship Initiative (SSI). SolarPower Europe encourages cooperation between EU member states' funding programs and seeks to boost photovoltaic demand in Europe, potentially through the European directive on overall building efficiency, to counterbalance the oversupply.
“This is a rare second chance. Europe’s original solar manufacturing base was lost a decade ago,” warned Hemetsberger. “If we don’t respond rapidly and appropriately to this price crisis, we’re looking at another wave of bankruptcies, and a false start for EU's open strategic autonomy agenda.”
pv magazine print edition
In the September issue of pv magazine, we examine booming solar markets in Brazil and Mexico; investigate whether TOPCon modules really are more susceptible to degradation than PERC products; attempt to unravel how US solar manufacturers can qualify for domestic content bonuses under the Inflation Reduction Act; and look at how homeowners can achieve the residential solar, battery, and EV dream.
The ESMC noted the critical situation for manufacturers and called for swift support from the EU Commission, including options such as the TCTF framework, the Net Zero Industry Act, and stringent measures against products tied to forced labor. The call has been endorsed by approximately 40 manufacturers across the PV value chain, as well as by organizations ESMC, PV Thin, and ISC Konstanz.
The ESMC predicts around 120 GW of solar module imports in Europe this year, effectively doubling demand on the continent. The association highlights the dilemma facing European manufacturers: Persist with closed production and the risk of bankruptcy or seek refuge in regions like the United States, where the PV industry enjoys support such as the Investment Tax Credit (IRA).
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