The solar market in China is entering a period of consolidation and shakeout. The annual average photovoltaic (PV) solar module cost and price trends of Chinese Tier-1 players in the past three years shows the price declines during 2012 that resulted in top suppliers selling at prices below their own production costs to compete with low-tier, low-price supplers.
(Source: Lux Research)
William, thanks for the clarification. The rest of the world outside China is now dependent on their better quality products, as shown by the agreements with the EU and the US. Poor quality solar cells and modules aren't going to do anyone any good, regardless of any single country's politics or enforcement tactics.
Ann, my main point is that if there are quality problems with the solar cells we are better off if those stay in China and get used by their utilities. Then nobody else has to deal with poor quality. And one more thing is that the China government deals way more harshly with people that cause it problems than any free world government does. Over here in the US we just don't hear about business executives being executed for corruption, but it made headlines twice while I was there a few years back. I think that might be a more effective deterrant than what our government does.
To clarify, the oversupply problem was temporary, and "dumping" doesn't mean getting rid of unused or unusable products. It means an unfair trade practice: selling usable products in a given local market (such as Europe) at prices below their production cost and/or at a cost so low and in such volumes that the local vendors can't compete. Metrics to determine what constitutes dumping have been determined, and the numbers cited by the EC exceed those thresholds. This all involves an attempt at dominance of an existing market, such as solar in Europe. Historical examples include the Japanese and Koreans with DRAMs in the late 80s and early 90s.
What the China government should do now is buy all of those cheap solar arrays and use them for power generation right there in Cina. Much less pollution and they can keep on being so very modern. Really, they do need more generation capacity and solar cells is a way for them to go, and if they are made right there, much less shipping costs.But if the arrays are junk and fail in a few years then better their problem than our problem.
The Chinese government was giving Chinese solar companies money to cover the difference of cost of the solar panels, (not loans, but money free-and-clear) so they could rid the world of their competitors by flooding the market with cheap solar panels. It was by design, and this caused a huge problem for American companies as well as European companies, and many of them folded. Good to see that some regulation is taking place to prevent these unfair business practices. Now it looks like they have to do business like the rest of the world, and they are now trying to figure out how to still turn a profit while on an even playing field.
China has made their bed, now they must sleep in it. Blind over-production without any regard to actual demands resulting in shameless dumping into the international markets without any consideration for mutually (underscoring this word, mutually) beneficial relations to all countries has created a predictable outcome. Consolidation is a normal and natural result in most new markets as the weak, brash or generally unwise fall away. If government incentives close your business case, you're already dead.
The creation of such a huge amount of production capability, when the market was really not going to support it, is indicative of folks believing all of those claims by top level management that the market is going to be "huge", with those assertions based on nothing more than wishful thinking. What else could those folks possibly say, given that they must produce sunshine in order to keep the shareholders and the boards of directors happy?
The result has been that while some of the organizations were producing solar cells and modules of good quality, others were producing poor copies that would not last, but that could be sold for less to buyers who only considered price and not quality.
Those companies that produced the better quality products did experience production cost reductions to some extent, as their processing matured, so they were able to drop prices a bit, but of course the profit margine suffered because they had competition that did not spend the money on quality concerns.
As for actual dumping, that would have to be supported by some other group, such as the government, or somebody else? Or is it just that the margins got really thin?
But it all comes back to greed, rushing to grab a market that somebody thought existed, without an adequate understanding of where it really was headed.
But I wonder about the ability to redirect those production facilities toward the production of LED devices, which have a more assured future at this time.
Lou, you're certainly right that PV solar isn't exactly a new industry. OTOH, this pattern looks familiar, doesn't it? Oversupply followed by consolidation happen and have happened in several industries at various times during their lifecycles. Glad you appreciated the report. I've got more coming on the status of solar and wind in various parts of the world.
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