Suntech focuses on reliability amid the solar industry’s price wars

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Can you briefly describe what Suntech achieved in 2023?

Wu Fei: Founded in 2001, Suntech was among the first enterprises engaged in the research, development, and manufacturing of PV modules. Having experienced the ups and downs of the industry, Suntech has shipped over 50 GW globally since its establishment, with projects spanning more than 100 countries worldwide. It has become a well-known brand in the industry and has consistently been recognized as a Tier 1 enterprise by Bloomberg, boasting a large number of long-term global customers.

In 2023, we delivered the world's largest installed capacity (2.1 GW) solar power station project, the UAE Al Dhafra PV2 Solar Power Plant Project, in the United Arab Emirates.

Also in 2023, our module was recognized by the Polish Academy of Sciences as having  an actual power degradation of less than 3% over 16 years, which is much lower than promised.

What are Suntech's business objectives for 2024?

Wu Fei: The key term for the entire industry in 2024 is “price war.” From the beginning of the year to now, prices of products across the entire industry chain have continued to fall, pushing the industry into a vicious cycle. Some customers use price as the sole criterion for selecting module brands, which I believe is very irrational. PV module products have a service life of 25-30 years and need to generate electricity continuously and normally. They are not consumer goods, but rather investment products. If one only focuses on price, they may overlook product quality. Low-priced products purchased now may continuously experience quality issues in the near future. We have been kindly reminding newcomers to the industry of this.

This year, Suntech's goal is to strictly control product quality. Especially for a 23-year-old brand like us, we have already experienced two cycles of PV price drops: the first was in 2012, the second was in 2018. 2024 marks the third cycle. Here, I officially call for rational selection of component products.

What are the reasons for the recent management changes at Suntech?

Wu Fei: The photovoltaic industry is developing rapidly, and Suntech's management also needs to adapt to the fast-changing market. Suntech attaches great importance to technological research and development, product quality, and has invested significant manpower and funds in these areas.

Before 2020, the photovoltaic industry only accounted for a small share of the energy market, and product prices were relatively high, making it not a very popular product.  However, as the price of photovoltaic modules decreases, photovoltaic products will become more affordable and turn into a commodity. Production scale has also increased tenfold, making it necessary to consider large-scale lean production for economic viability.

Meanwhile, as Suntech expands its international market, we have also hired more employees from different nationalities. To improve management efficiency and informatization at our headquarters, we also need more international talent.

Suntech's management structure has also undergone deep optimization, with the establishment of two core departments: the Customer Marketing and Service Center and the Production and Operation Center. The main responsibility of the Customer Marketing and Service Center is to prioritize customer service, while the Production and Operation Center's main responsibility is to provide customers with the most durable and stable products. Other departments are responsible for serving these two centers.

The management changes were also influenced by challenges primarily linked to financial issues within our parent company. Despite these challenges, our brand reputation, product quality, and sales capabilities remain strong. We hold a prominent position as a pioneer in China's PV industry. With the new management team in place, we aim to revitalize Suntech, elevate our brand to Tier1 status, and pave the way for a prosperous future.

Suntech Chairman Wu Fei

Image: Suntech

What do you see as the main focus of the company's development in the next 2-5 years?

Wu Fei: Suntech will focus on securing new investments and launching innovative products. I believe the current state of price competition is unsustainable, and we will prioritize product quality. Our solar modules have demonstrated exceptional performance in various installations, such as two rooftop PV systems in Germany that have maintained high efficiency over more than 20 years of operation. This reliability surpasses industry standards and exceeds customer expectations, showcasing Suntech's competitive edge. Looking ahead, we aim to achieve 30 GW of module sales by 2026 and 60 GW by 2028.

How do Suntech's newest product lines reflect the company's technological advances?

Wu Fei: This year, we will introduce higher power H48 and H66 products. H48 is for the household market, which features an all-black design in line with architectural aesthetics and is lightweight and easy to install.

Our H66 and D66 products are suitable for industrial and commercial power stations and ground power stations, with a lower temperature coefficient, higher double-sided ratio, and compatibility with mainstream inverters and brackets, which is more in line with the needs of power station users.

The Ultra V Pro and Ultra X Pro series feature cutting-edge cell technology and encapsulation materials that enhance efficiency levels to 26.5%. The Ultra V Pro series, in particular, boasts a 15-year material supply warranty and a 30-year linear warranty.

What does Suntech see as the biggest challenge in the current market environment? What are the opportunities?

Wu Fei: The current market environment is quite challenging due to the intense competition brought on by a disorderly price war. With numerous new players entering the industry, many companies are operating at a loss and resorting to low-cost strategies that compromise product quality. This situation poses a significant risk to the long-term development of the industry.

Instead of sacrificing quality for cost reduction, Suntech aims to stand out by prioritizing reputation and longevity in the industry. We believe that longevity and credibility are key factors in building a strong market presence. By steering clear of the price war and focusing on quality, we see an opportunity to establish Suntech as a reliable and trusted player in the industry.

The questions and responses in this sponsored interview article were provided by Suntech. 

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