Chinese Solar-Glass Makers Face Threat of EU Tariffs

The European Union threatened to impose tariffs on solar glass from China to curb import competition for EU producers, heightening trade tensions over renewable energy.

The EU opened an inquiry into whether Chinese makers of solar glass sell it in the 27-nation bloc below cost, a practice known as dumping. The glass is used for the production of solar panels, which are themselves the focus of two European trade probes affecting China.

Since last year, the EU has been investigating alleged subsidies to Chinese solar-panel makers and alleged dumping by them in the bloc’s biggest trade dispute of its kind. Those two cases could lead later this year to EU anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on Chinese solar panels.

The new investigation will determine whether shipments of solar glass from China are “being dumped and whether the dumped imports have caused injury” to the EU industry, the European Commission, the bloc’s trade authority in Brussels, said yesterday in the Official Journal. The commission has nine months to decide whether to impose provisional anti-dumping duties for half a year and EU governments have 15 months to decide whether to apply “definitive” levies for five years.

The probe stems from a Jan. 15 dumping complaint by an industry group -- EU ProSun Glass -- on behalf of producers that account for more than 25 percent of the EU’s output of solar glass, said the commission, which didn’t identify any companies.

The EU solar-glass market is valued at less than 200 million euros ($261 million), the commission said in an e-mailed statement yesterday about the case.

Solar glass is used to cover solar cells to assemble them into panels. The material accounts for about 4 percent of solar-panel costs, while polysilicon, the most costly component in making panels, amounts to 13 percent, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.

By comparison, EU imports of solar panels from China were worth 21 billion euros in 2011, the commission said in early September when it opened the dumping probe into those goods. The EU subsidy probe into Chinese solar panels began in early November.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.