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China PV Exports Rise on Expansion in Emerging Markets

Zhejiang province posted US$340 million in exports of photovoltaic (PV) products for the first quarter of this year, an increase of 18 percent over the same period last year. The rise is primarily attributable to industry expansion into emerging markets. Exports to Japan increased 121 percent year-on-year, while those to ASEAN countries increased 843 percent.

“China’s PV products previously were mainly exported to the U.S. and to European countries, but now exports to emerging markets account for more than 80 percent of the total,” said Shen Fuxin, secretary general of the Zhejiang Solar Energy Industry Association.

Since 2011, EU countries and the U.S. have initiated anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigations over PV imports from China. Most recently, the EU imposed definitive measures on Chinese solar panels in the form of anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties. These duties, ranging from 47.7 percent to 64.9 percent, will be valid for the two years starting 6 December 2013. This lead to dramatic decreases in the level of exports from many Chinese PV companies and was a major factor in Suntech Power’s bankruptcy, a leader in the field. 

In order to offset the decrease, the PV industry across Zhejiang province began to expand into new markets while improving product competitiveness through technical innovations. 

The more than two years of efforts are paying off. In 2013, the province’s PV industry achieved sales of 70 billion yuan (approx. US$11.2 billion), with Risen Energy, Zhejiang Sunflower Light Energy Science & Technology, ReneSola and JinkoSolar seeing continuous improvement in their competitiveness.

Of the $340 million export number, solar cell exports brought in $290 million, up 23 percent year-on-year, with the top five export destinations being Japan (+121 percent), Taiwan (+31 percent), ASEAN (+823 percent), the U.K. (+497 percent) and South Africa (+600 percent). “Exports to the U.S. and the European continent accounted for only 17 percent of the total,” said Shen.

Solar cell exports via the province’s Ningbo port increased despite the down market, thanks to the expansion efforts. During the first quarter of this year, exports via the port totaled 3.16 million units, valued at 1.67 billion yuan, up 53.7 percent and 13.4 percent from a year earlier, respectively. 

Exports to emerging markets demonstrated an outstanding performance, with those to South Korea surging 112 times to 672,000 units, India 58.3 percent to 430,000 units and South Africa 140 times to 396,000 units.

Also dampened by EU tariffs, Ningbo’s solar cell exports to EU countries amounted to only 264,000 units in the first three months of this year, down 74.4 percent over the same period of last year. 

While export volume of solar cells increased this year, the average export price dropped 26.2 percent from a year earlier, a source at Ningbo Customs revealed. This was mainly due to the intensifying price war between solar cell makers. It is encouraging that the city of Ningbo has issued new rules whereby the local government provides additional subsidies for qualified PV modules and encourages PV exporters to strengthen development of the domestic market. 

Lead image: Solar panel via Shutterstock

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