The UK’s largest renewable energy trade body has criticised the EU Commission for imposing import tariffs on Chinese solar power panels – which result in prices in the UK being higher than the free-market price.
The European Commission released its decision to launch an inquiry into the use of Minimum Import Pricing (MIP) for solar PV modules imported from China.
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) is adamant that it should be removed, which would substantially reduce the cost of installing solar power in Europe.
Although the announcement of an inquiry may sound like a positive step, in reality it will unnecessarily extend the policy for at least the duration of the inquiry, which could take up to 15 months.
The global average price for solar modules is around €0.40/watt. With MIP however Chinese panels must be imported at €0.56/watt – meaning that the UK pays an artificially high price.
In addition the REA is anticipating the Department for Energy (DECC) to release its decision on the future of the Feed-in Tariff shortly, which supports the deployment of technologies such as solar PV and anaerobic digestion in the UK.
The department’s proposed 87% cuts to aspects of the scheme have spurred widespread outcry, attracting over 55,000 responses. Lauren Cook, Policy Analyst at the REA said:
“This announcement is not good news for the solar industry. It will keep system costs high and delay the industry in reaching grid parity.
“The REA had clearly recommended to both DECC and the European Commission that minimum import pricing should be removed. This decision to launch an inquiry will extend the policy for the duration of the investigation. This will now need to be taken into account by DECC when making a decision on the Feed-in Tariff.”
The UK Solar Trade Association is also disappointed with the Brussels decision, which it said will continue to artificially inflate the price of solar unnecessarily.
However the EU can now, as part of its proceedings, officially consider whether the import duties are doing the European solar industry as a whole more harm than good, which the Solar Trade Association hopes will help bring the tariffs to an end.
A Solar Trade Association spokesman commented: “These price controls on imports of Chinese solar panels need to be dropped. Europe is currently paying far more than it should for its solar – and that applies both to our homeowners and our governments.”
“In the last two and a half years under these price controls and restrictions, the UK will have deployed nearly 7GW of solar PV equating to £8.5bn of investment.
“Over the life of the tariffs this will add £700 million more than it would otherwise need to in terms of the UK’s support for solar – that is simply too much.”
“The Commission appears to be hamstrung by its own restrictive processes, where they cannot take into account the full facts. We hope this review by the Commission will check whether these price controls are in the interests of the industry as a whole.”
James Court, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the REA, added: “It is deeply disappointing to hear the announcement that an inquiry will be launched into MIP, effectively extending the policy for another 12 to 15 months.
“Many member states, including the UK, have binding energy targets that were developed in conjunction with the European Commission. It is baffling that despite this, they have decided to keep in place import charges which are actively making this transition more expensive.
“Ultimately it is the Chinese manufacturers that benefit. This policy does not raise taxes that benefit anyone in Europe. Instead it means manufacturers can sell their product at a rate that would be unacceptable in most other areas of the world.”