EU Solar-Panel Industry Wins Review of China Price Pact

The European Union will consider excluding Chinese solar-panel prices in a benchmark that underpins an agreement to curb imports from China, potentially aiding EU producers such as Solarworld AG that want to prevent a downward price spiral in Europe.

The European Commission started a review into a minimum import price that is adjusted quarterly on the basis of international spot prices for solar panels including Chinese prices “as reported by the Bloomberg database.”

Under the minimum-price accord, known as an undertaking, “spot prices excluding Chinese prices may be used as a benchmark, if made available by the Bloomberg database,” the commission, the 28-nation EU’s trade authority in Brussels, said on Tuesday in the Official Journal.

In that context, no technical obstacle exists to using a benchmark that excludes Chinese prices, according to the commission.

“The Bloomberg database contains a price series that excludes Chinese prices, for which historical data is available,” the commission said. “Therefore, subject to the appropriate procedures, it would be technically possible to use spot prices excluding Chinese prices, as reported by the Bloomberg database, as a benchmark.”

The probe is the latest skirmish in a years-long battle by European makers of solar panels, also known as crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules, to fend off competition from Chinese competitors able to sell at lower prices in the EU.

Benchmark Review

European industry group EU ProSun requested the benchmark review. The group said the number of Chinese companies reporting data to be included in the benchmark has “increased significantly” since early 2014 and the prices provided by these businesses “have historically been lower than prices reported by other companies,” according to the commission.

“The sufficient evidence submitted by the applicant suggests that the existing benchmark is no longer representative of the development of the prices for crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules,” said the commission, which has as long as 15 months to complete its review.

The minimum import price is part of an EU-China agreement struck in late 2013 to put a brake on European imports of Chinese solar panels. The accord set a minimum price and a volume limit on European imports of the renewable-energy technology until the end of 2015. Chinese manufacturers that opted to take part in the pact are spared EU tariffs meant to counter alleged below-cost -- or “dumped” -- imports and subsidies.

While the trade protection is due to lapse on Dec. 7 this year, EU ProSun said on April 29 that it would ask for an extension of the measures. That could lead the commission to open a probe into whether to renew the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, a step that would automatically keep them in place beyond the expiration date pending the outcome of the expiry review.

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