Hope at the end of turbulence in the EU solar PV industry

 

Opinion

Cross-party discussions and the resulting uncertainties about future developments and political support continue to burden the European PV industry. Unlike in Spain and Poland, for example, this does not necessarily seem to be slowing down the growth of solar in Germany.

After a successful year in 2023, the new year began with promising figures. More than 1 GW of PV was deployed in Germany in January and this growth should continue unabated in February. This can be deduced from the sales figures of manufacturers and wholesalers.

However, higher demand is colliding with the hesitant shipment strategies of manufacturers. Apparently, after the shock of large inventories caused by overproduction last year, capacity in China has been significantly reduced and market oversupply has been curbed. This is an attempt to stop the dramatic price slide that began last year.

However, this is only happening gradually at the moment. There was no longer a significant downward correction in prices in February, but rather a sideways movement. A small price drop was only observed for high-efficiency modules.

Module prices were on a downward trend due to existing stocks from last fall, with volumes starting to slowly flow out. Nevertheless, installers are well advised to stock up on modules and inverters in good time for the next few months. Future module deliveries will be delayed and products will be slightly more expensive.

Artificial shortages and increased transport costs are affecting availability. Many suppliers will only offer high-performance modules and larger hybrid inverters to new customers starting in April or May. Orders for large-format modules, mainly used in ground-mounted projects, may only be fulfilled in June.

The perception that undersupply and long delivery times were over has changed. A general two-week standstill in China during Chinese New Year and longer delivery times for container goods, now up to eight weeks, indicate a prolonged dry spell. This may only be resolved by products with weaker performance. Unfortunately, there is no strong European solar industry to mitigate such trade turbulence in the near future.

Overview of the price points differentiated by technology in January 2024, including the changes compared to the preceding month (as of Feb. 19, 2024):

If the reports and alarmist statements on social media networks are to be believed, we are even threatened with the exodus or closure of the remaining German solar industry. To prevent this, politicians should strive to create fair conditions for local producers and finally abolish European tariffs on preliminary products, as they did for finished solar modules. The farmer protests taking place everywhere show us that a pure subsidy policy without strategies for the transition to fair and sustainable competition leads to nothing but resentment and a loud counter-movement as soon as the subsidy is collected again.

Author: Martin Schachinger

Martin studied electrical engineering and has been active in renewables for more than 20 years. In 2004, he set up pvXchange.com. The online platform allows wholesalers, installers, and service companies to purchase a range of components, including out-of-production PV modules and inverters.

This article was originally published in pv magazine and is republished with permission.

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