Renewable energy has received attention for the last few decades. Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth” brought a lot of attention to the issue of global warming, but the world has still been slow to respond to the changing environment. Solar panels and renewable energy go back a lot further than the emergence of mainstream news coverage of these issues. Only now is the problem receiving the attention it deserves.
However, an “inconvenient truth” of the matter emerges among advocates for renewable energy who want cost-effective solar panels to be readily available. Western countries are trying to block Chinese solar panels from being made available in domestic European markets. This stance is contradictory in nature. Shouts arise globally about the need to reduce the global carbon footprint. However, countries restrict competitively priced goods fit for the greater purpose.
Three years ago, the European Union banded together in an attempt to derail a booming Chinese solar industry. Owing to a committed Chinese government willing to fund subsidies to grow their own solar industry, foreign countries decided to implement measures to help prevent a competitive market. Restrictions arrived packaged as tariffs against China, as well as minimum pricing against Chinese solar panel imports.
Ironically, individuals who survive by installing solar panels are against such measures. Claiming it may help domestic manufacturers compete with foreign producers, the industry still sees a net negative effect. Manufacturers would benefit, though those offering solar services would be damaged and the uptake of solar power would be slowed. After all, Chinese solar panels that are priced low should encourage those who are more apprehensive to purchase.
Sebastian Berry, a leading solar expert, reinforced these thoughts. He currently sits on the trade body SolarPower Europe. Berry argued: “If Europe is serious about leading in renewables, then the solar sector must be allowed to grow again and the European Commission can support this with one easy action: removing the trade measures.”
Others believe the dumping of solar products by China will have a long-term negative effect if allowed to continue. If European domestic manufacturers are not able to compete, the long term may see unreliable products and less consumer choice. Those who support such regulations argue that by allowing China free access to the market, there is not a level playing field for all involved.
Many argue that the problems of the solar industry are not solved by allowing free entry of Chinese solar panels. Over the last year, the prices of solar panels have dropped an estimated 20%, which has not stimulated a sluggish solar industry.
The argument seen within the European solar industry has made one thing clear. China is able to produce low-priced goods, which worries domestic manufacturers. While not everyone is in agreement as to whether such a situation is positive or negative, the fact of the matter is that China can offer advanced goods at low prices, and the measures imposed against the country will do nothing to stop the country from continuing its advancement in technological manufacturing.