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Energy Commissioner: EU Can’t Close Border to Solar Panel Imports

Despite the struggles of the EU solar manufacturing industry faced with cheap Chinese panels, the bloc cannot close its borders to cheap solar imports, according to European Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson.  

“There are different proposals how we can support our industry, but clearly we cannot close our borders because we need solar panels,” Simson said on Monday, ahead of a meeting of the EU energy ministers, who are set to discuss possible support to EU solar manufacturing companies.  

“We have to support our industry, but we need all the products to meet our very ambitious targets,” Simson said, as carried by Reuters.

The EU has been seeking to protect its wind and solar equipment manufacturers from Chinese competition.

Many EU manufacturers have either closed plants or plan to impose such measures as a flood of solar panels imports, especially from China, and high inventory levels of panels are threatening demand for the more expensive EU-made solar equipment.

EU solar manufacturers need urgent support, the European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC) said in early February.

The EU has an oversupply of subsidized solar PV modules, imported from China. Currently, the EU has a stock of an estimated 140–170 million PV modules in European ports and warehouses, equivalent to 70–85 GW capacity, according to ESMC. 

“The European solar PV manufacturing industry is facing an existential threat. If policymakers don’t take immediate actions to safeguard the solar PV module producers in the EU, relocating abroad or bankruptcy are the only options,” ESMC says.

ESMC, which represents nearly the entire PV manufacturing value chain of nearly 80 European companies, urged the European Commission in a letter in January to take “immediate actions to protect EU’s solar PV module manufacturers amid this crisis”.

“The EU is now entering a pivotal phase where, over the next 4–8 weeks, major EU PV module producers and their European suppliers are poised to shut down manufacturing lines unless substantial emergency measures are promptly implemented,” ESMC said.

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The association called on the EU to amend state aid rules to allow additional government support to solar producers and to set up an EU-level buy-out facility for accumulated EU PV module inventories.   

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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