EU rejects calls for new tariffs on Chinese solar imports

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A member of the European Commission has signaled that Brussels is unlikely to impose new tariffs on imports of solar PV panels.

The EU has indicated it is unlikely to heed calls from the solar panel sector to enact new tariffs on imports of cheaper products from China.

Industry leaders have been asking for intervention to curb cheap imports from Asia, which undercut their own offerings, in order to support the continent's domestic production. Suggestions include the EU buying up excess inventory of domestically-produced photovoltaic (PV) panels and other equipment, as well as placing new tariffs on imported goods.

Currently, 97 percent of panels used in the EU are imported, with China the largest source of these products. It is estimated that an oversupply of products within the sector has helped to push prices down by as much as 40 percent.

However, Mairead McGuinness, EU commissioner in charge of financial services, stated this week that there will be no new support for European manufacturers. She added that any efforts to protect domestic industry must be balanced against the EU's green energy transition.

Brussels has set a goal of delivering 750 gigawatts of solar generation capacity by 2030, up from 260 gigawatts in 2023.

“The EU needs to have access to affordable solar panels to fuel the green transition and unlock the economic opportunities,” Ms McGuinness said in the European Parliament this week.

She added: “Given that we currently rely to a very important degree on imports to reach EU solar deployment targets, any potential measure needs to be weighed against the objectives we have set ourselves when it comes to the energy transition.”

However, Reuters notes that politicians around Europe are said to be split over the issue. While Spain has not ruled out imposing tariffs on solar panel imports, and the Netherlands has proposed expanding the EU's carbon border tax to include the items, others have rejected such measures.

Last November, for example, Germany's economy minister Robert Habeck wrote to the European Commission to raise concerns about proposed tariffs. He stated that any import restrictions would make the wider solar PV market more expensive, and could even lead to bankruptcies among companies that install Chinese-made panels.