Key solar PV manufacturing states in Germany urge EU-wide industry revival
Clean Energy Wire
Solar PV companies and several German states have agreed on a 10-point action plan to protect and strengthen the country’s solar power industry in order to ensure the planned large-scale expansion of the technology in Germany and the rest of Europe. Michael Kretschmer, conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) state premier of Saxony, invited fellow state leaders and industry figures to a “solar summit” in Berlin and the group that he assembled now plans table the results of their meeting to the federal government and the European Commission. “We need to find a joint approach between the [national] federal government and the EU,” Kretschmer said. “The aim is ensure that development and value creation stay with us and are not permanently relocated,” the state premier said, adding that dependence on third parties must be reduced.
Measures listed in the action plan, released by Saxony’s state government, include relaxing EU state support rules, particularly for innovation, and ensuring that only solar panels which were produced according to European environmental and quality standards are being admitted for use in the EU. Hardware installed in Europe should be checked for its recyclability, carbon emissions in production and the working conditions at manufacturers, the solar summit’s participants agreed. Wolfram Günther, Saxony’s energy minister for the Green Party, said the state’s still sizeable solar power industry was being threatened by dumping prices from importers. “The solar industry in Saxony and [neighboring state] Saxony-Anhalt is in immediate danger. This means all of Europe’s solar industry is threatened, because our states are where the most important companies and steps in value creation in the EU are located,” Günther said. The loss of many industry actors in the years after 2010 to Chinese competitors had been “a trauma for the industry that must not repeat itself,” he warned.
Sustained pressure by Chinese producers, who European competitors accuse of benefiting from unusually generous government support, and major incentives for producers to invest in the U.S. currently compound the difficulties for Europe’s solar power industry. However, the solar summit’s participants stopped short of calling for the introduction of punitive tariffs on Chinese solar power hardware imports, which also have been discussed for the automotive industry. Opponents of such a measure argue that this might lead to a wider deterioration in trade relations with China and ultimately come back to hurt European producers if China retaliated with similar trade restrictions on goods vital for the EU’s industry.