Australia’s Anti-Dumping Commission will launch a formal investigation into solar panels imported from China to address claims that the Australian market has been flooded with cheap Chinese PV at prices that undercutting domestic sales, or the cost of manufacture.
The move has been welcomed by Australian solar PV maker Tindo Solar, which applied to the Commission in the hope that an investigation would help achieve a level playing field in the local market and, as a by-product of this, it says, boost green job creation.
The move by Tindo has raised concerns that the price of solar modules could be pushed higher by the imposition of tariffs, as occurred in the US and Europe, although Tindo says its main aim to stop the dumping of cheap, poor quality panels – a result that would please most in the industry.
“We are passionate about creating new and innovative manufacturing jobs in this country and we are supportive of any initiative that embeds a fair go and a fair market place for Australian manufacturers” said Richard Inwood, manager of people and business at Tindo, whose solar module manufacturing business at Mawson Lakes in South Australia is a one of its kind in Australia.
The Australian case follows similar international investigations, with the US imposing anti-dumping duties on Chinese solar panels ranging from 24-255 per cent in 2012. The following year in the EU, the European Commission set a minimum floor price and volume quota for imported Chinese solar panels.
News of the Australian investigation follows the launch last week of a new, industry-led Australian solar audit program to test the quality and composition of PV panels at their point of manufacture, to help ensure that the final products being installed on suburban rooftops were of a consistently high standard.
The Positive Quality program – launched last Thursday by the Australian Solar Council with the backing of market leaders Yingli Solar, Trina Solar, JA Solar and locally-based company Solar Juice – will see random audits conducted on solar manufacturers who export their panels to Australia.
Speaking on the sidelines of last week’s Australian Solar Council Conference in Melbourne, ASC chief John Grimes said the new program would fill a regulatory breach that has concerned industry bodies and market leaders since cheap solar panels started flooding the Australian market as a result of the very rapid growth of the industry, beginning in 2008 and 2009.
“There has been no way (until now) for the public to identify genuine quality solar panels,” Grimes said. “Instead, we see disreputable manufacturers ‘gaming the system,’ substituting cheap materials and pricing quality manufacturers out of the market.
“I think that people are smart enough to realise that things like this happen in every industry, the important thing is that it is detected and dealt with,” said Grimes in February.
Tindo has estimated that Australia will import about $1.4 billion in PV panels this year, to help feed Australia’s insatiable rooftop solar appetite.