Instead of calling for protectionist measures, we should rather concentrate on our strengths and pave the way towards competitiveness of photovoltaics in Germany. The PV supplier industry has to focus on its technology leadership on international markets even more intense than in the past, explains Dr. Eric Maiser, managing director of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment. The association estimates that punitive tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic products will provoke immediate sanctions by the Chinese authorities and influence the free market access for European companies in China in a negative way.
Protectionism harms the machinery industry
Of course, it is the responsibility of European politics to advocate for the competitive position of companies based in Europe. But this can only be achieved by the strengthening of free trade and the fight against protectionist trends. Protectionism harms the machinery industry, confirms Dr. Hannes Hesse, Executive Director of VDMA. Chinese solar manufacturers are accused of selling their products below production cost worldwide. Although ruinous in the long run, this is not prohibited in principle. The last thing the German photovoltaic equipment industry now needs is a lengthy and unprofitable trade conflict with one of its core markets, adds Dr. Florian Wessendorf, project manager in the team of VDMA Photovoltaic Equipment.
Uncertainties are detrimental to upturn cost reduction as opportunity
Faced with the current efforts of the EU initiative ProSun the PV equipment companies fear that punitive tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic products could slow down the investment confidence of cell and module manufacturers worldwide sustainably as well. The industry is groaning under overcapacity. New factories will increasingly be built again, as soon as the worldwide demand for photovoltaics rises further. The anti-dumping action whips up uncertainty in the market. Thus it delays the recovery. PV equipment makers perceive the current cost pressure in the PV industry even as an opportunity because PV manufacturers have to rely on highly efficient technology and production machines in order to operate economically on the market. This is true regardless of whether PV production takes place in Europe or the Far East, stresses Maiser. PV equipment makers stick to their overall concept of subsidy-free photovoltaics.
Commitment to manufacturing in Germany
Despite their traditionally strong Asian markets the commitment for Germany as place for business and production is deeply rooted in the machinery industry. The core competences of the photovoltaic supply industry will stay at their home bases in Germany. The industry has greatly benefited from the guaranteed legal- and investment certainty in Germany. The excellent infrastructure and the high skill level of workers and innovative engineers are also strong points in favor of domestic production of manufacturing equipment, explains Wessendorf. Even perspectives for photovoltaic production in Germany itself are much more positive than currently perceived. We are strong supporters of Germany as production location for PV machinery as well as for cell and module production. If the right measures are taken, production in Germany is competitive to China, underlines Maiser.
Currently, approximately 100 VDMA member companies are active in the photovoltaic sector. The topic started in 2007 as a co-operation between the following VDMA divisions: Electronics Production (Productronics), Glass Technology, Energy, Organic Electronics, Robotics and Automation, Laser and Photonics, Surface Treatment, Vacuum Technology, and Displays. With the foundation of the enlarged platform Photovoltaic Equipment on March 30, 2010, activities for members have been extended and the visibility of the industry has been increased.
The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) represents more than 3,000 companies in the engineering industry, many of which are small and medium sized enterprises. With about 964.000 employees (May 2012) all over Germany and a sales turnover of 201 billion Euros (2011) the industry is the biggest employer and one of the leading sectors of the German industry as a whole.