Price of solar power panels forecast to fall as EU maintains tariff against Chinese imports

This solar power array near Errol, Perthshire, is one of the largest in Scotland.
This solar power array near Errol, Perthshire, is one of the largest in Scotland.

Solar photovoltaic electricity generation has enjoyed growth for more than a decade, underpinned by a surge in renewable energy programs and – in some countries – government support.

As a result, one of the main long-term trends has been a drop in PV module prices – which is forecast to continue –  according to a new market analysis by DBRS, the credit ratings agency. 

The significant increase in demand for solar PV coupled with a polysilicon shortage resulted in a supply crunch across the PV value chain by the mid-2000s. This prompted significant investment into building capacity along the upstream PV solar value chain.

Since then, increasing manufacturing capacity, coupled with technological improvements such as enhanced efficiency, has resulted in a significant decline in the price of solar PV modules, with the price per watt declining by more than 60% since 2011. 

The long-term trend of continued decline in solar PV module prices has been the main driver behind the drop in the cost of solar PV electricity.

Recently, however, certain factors are contributing to a short-term increase in module prices. China, the largest consumer and producer of solar PV modules, has somewhat unexpectedly increased its renewable energy targets. In the United States, an anti-dumping petition by a PV module manufacturer is causing uncertainty in the industry and has put upward pressure on prices. DBRS expects these factors to only cause a temporary price uptick.

As in previous price cycles, the following factors will continue to play a dominant role and contribute to the continued decline of solar PV module prices in the next three to five years: (1) supply and demand dynamics, (2) technological developments and (3) industry consolidation and continued incentives for solar project development.

DBRS anticipates that prices will continue to decline in the medium term, albeit at a slower rate, on the back of substantial manufacturing overcapacity and continued research and development (R&D) spending across the value chain. R&D spending is expected to accelerate as a result of more funding made available by larger industry players as well as the continuation of manufacturing incentives.

The European Union imposed duties in 2013 on Chinese solar panels after European panel manufacturers complained they were being forced out of business by underpriced Chinese imports. These duties were expected to be phased out by September

However, the EU last month voted to set minimum import duties for Chinese solar modules and cells that could price them up to 30% above market levels.

1 Nov 2017

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