ESMC observes the current state of the European solar PV manufacturing industry with deep concern, and unfortunately, we are not particularly surprised. In recent months, prominent members of ESMC and key players in the European PV manufacturing industry, including Meyer Burger , Norsun , REC Solar Norway , and Norwegian Crystals , have conveyed the message that there are simply not favourable market conditions in Europe to sustain their operations. Most other European PV manufacturers are having similar discussions behind closed doors.
Since July 2023 , ESMC has actively engaged with the European Commission and other stakeholders, highlighting the severity of the situation, and proposing both short-term emergency and long-term resilience measures. Our members are competing against heavily subsidized foreign PV module manufacturing ― that currently offers modules on the European market at prices below profitability even for these subsidised actors ― creating an uneven playing field that ultimately leads to closures and bankruptcies of European companies. What we have witnessed in recent months is just the beginning of what we fear could become a wave of shutdowns in PV manufacturing operations, turning off the light of the European PV industry’s renaissance. In 2023, the EU’s estimated PV module production capacities stood at 11 GW on paper, but only about half of that capacity is estimated to be operational. Approximately only 2 GW of modules was produced by European PV module manufacturers during 2023 because of the unfavourable and unsustainable low module prices, and ~1 GW is currently held in the inventories. Regrettably, these stocks remain unsold due to prevailing market conditions of ultra-low pricing, expected to persist throughout at least 2024. The closure of PV module manufacturers is also closing possibilities to develop other parts of the PV value chain and European material and component manufacturers are thus also at very high risk.
What we can state is that the European Commission is aware of the situation , understands the underlying reasons and the challenging situation our members are facing. We applaud the efforts in advancing legislations such as the Net-Zero Industry Act (NZIA), the EcoDesign regulation, and Forced Labor Regulation over the past year, but these are not solutions that help right now. The legislative work schedules that these regulations demand involve implementation in 2–3 years. By then, it will be too late, and we would irreversibly have lost a major share of the industry we still have left, and with that also important know-how and workforce competence. Unfortunately, in 2023 and 2024, we have not seen any concrete remedial emergency actions.
There is only one solution ― we need robust emergency measures that are powerful and effective, bridging the period until legislative incentives, such as the Net-Zero Industry Act, take effect and can at least partly level the playing field. This needs to be done immediately, both at the EU and national levels in the Member States. Having European PV manufacturing is crucial for European sovereignty and to avoid 100% dependency of PV products imported for the European green transition. There is a benchmark for the manufacturing capacity of strategic net-zero technologies to meet at least 40% of the EU’s annual deployment needs by 2030. If nothing is done now, there will be no industry to count on by 2030. With that, Xi Jinping’s strategic target to control the PV supply chain would have been achieved, and China’s aggressive industry support strategy would have paid off.
”Losing nearly all European PV module producers right now would have irreversible negative consequences for the entire EU PV manufacturing industry. The European Commission in 2023 adopted Temporary Crisis and Transition Framework (TCTF) and several Member States already planned REPowerEU financing for the PV manufacturing industry in the EU, while the Net-Zero Industry Act and Forced Labour Regulation are in the legislative pipeline. All these incentives will be useless in case the emergency measures would not be taken by the middle of February at the latest.Žygimantas VaičiūnasESMC Policy Director
As before, ESMC stands ready to assist the European Commission and the Member States with the implementation framework for emergency measures.
References: Image copyright: Voltec Solar  European market distortion impacts 2023 financials – Meyer Burger to focus on manufacturing footprint in the U.S. and prepare for closure of German module manufacturing (link)  Dramatic price collapse in Europe creates short-term challenges for NorSun Årdal (link)  REC Solar closes silicon production in Norway (link)  Norwegian Crystals Files for Bankruptcy (link)  Industry letters sent to the European Commission in July, September and November  Answers to our letters from DG GROW and DG Energy.