The solar panel market remains volatile this year after an unprecedented drop in prices last year and several major solar energy companies downsizing, moving their operations abroad, and some even filing for bankruptcy. The major issue that has overwhelmed the discussion this year is the beginning of a trade war between the United States and China. The head of the major target of the case against Chinese solar manufacturers was interviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the "solar industry globally has fallen on hard times, beset by falling subsidies in Europe, a key market, and global overcapacity for solar panels and their components." Chinese manufacturers have been accused of receiving unfair government subsidies and selling their products in the U.S. at prices below the cost of production in an effort to dominate the U.S. market, according to Marketwatch.
Incentives for solar energy have been cut almost as fast as the price of solar panels has been falling. The largest market for solar energy has been in Germany, where the German government has started to accelerate the reductions in feed-in tariffs, the fixed price at which solar energy is purchased. Forbes reports that Deutsche Bank has indicated that Germany's "next cut on solar subsidies could be harsher than expected."
And in the U.S., a lot is riding on the trade action against the Chinese manufacturers. Time Magazine reports that $11 billion worth of solar power will be installed this year. The solar industry is employing 100,000 Americans, although less than a quarter of these jobs are in manufacturing jobs. The impact of the petition against the Chinese will affect the job situation in the solar industry to varying degrees, depending on who you ask.
In his interview with The Wall Street Journal, Suntech's chief executive Shi Zhengrong discusses the ongoing consolidation in the solar industry. According to the Journal interview, Zhengrong says that "the market consolidation is already happening. If you look at China there are probably more than 1,000 companies in this sector, but at this moment, 50% at least have either shut down production or partially ended production." As for the trade action against Chinese manufacturers, Zhengrong remarks that "Unfortunately it's a lose-lose situation. Nobody wins: The U.S. government, U.S. consumers, and the solar industry are all losers in this game. We believe the accusation is not true. If there's a tariff or trade war, it would really be a big setback for the industry."
According to Cleantechnica, a final determination on the anti-dumping and countervailing duties allegations are expected in late March.