London and New York: The world solar photovoltaic industry, dogged by overcapacity and consolidation in recent years, saw a pick-up in shipments as well as firmer prices in June. So reveals Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s new Solar Shipments Index, based on a survey of leading manufacturers in the PV supply chain.
The booming Japanese market, expected to total between 6.9 and 9.4GW of new-build PV in 2013, was one major driver for the June upswing; another was a rush to ship products to the European Union before a higher rate of preliminary anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese products was expected to come into effect on 6 August.
The Solar Shipments Index showed that leading Chinese cell makers made shipments corresponding to 116% of their average manufacturing capacity utilisation in the month of June 2013, with Chinese module makers averaging 99% and Taiwanese cell makers 84%.
These high utilisation rates must be treated with some caution, however. The sample in the Index (19.2GW of cell capacity and 16.1GW of module capacity) is weighted towards tier 1 and tier 2 companies, largely because these are the companies sufficiently well-organised to provide data on a timely basis. Utilisation rates have certainly increased significantly from May 2013 across the board.
Pricing along the value chain has risen slightly in recent months, with the BNEF Solar Spot Price Index showing average polysilicon prices just over $17/kg, up from a low of $16/kg in December 2012. Module prices have also risen slightly, with Chinese modules from reputable suppliers widely commanding $0.75/W and international modules $0.86/W. Market participants surveyed expect prices to stabilise from now on. Some suppliers, such as Chinese company Hareon Solar, were planning capacity outside China to mitigate the effects of forthcoming anti-dumping tariffs on polysilicon imports into China from the US, and on Chinese products into Europe. Now China and the EU have agreed a settlement, these companies may cancel these plans.
Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commented: “These data show that there is strong global demand for the PV products of the largest manufacturers, despite uncertainty and the flow of bad news from the global solar market. Consolidation continues, but 2013 will still be a year of growth for the industry as a whole.”
Full reports on two Indexes are available to subscribers of BNEF’s Solar Insight Service, along with detailed demand, supply, price and investment analysis. The BNEF Solar Insight team expects the global PV market to total 37.0GW (the median scenario of 35 individual country forecasts) in 2013, compared to 30.5GW in 2012.
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Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.