Demand for key ingredients, associated products increase amid green push
Production and sales of Chinese photovoltaic products saw robust growth during the first six months of this year, on the back of strong performance in overseas markets, an industry expert said.
Production volumes of polycrystalline silicon, a key ingredient of PV products and other associated products like silicon wafers, modules and cells, registered an impressive uptick, according to data from the China Photovoltaic Industry Association.
Polycrystalline silicon output totaled 155,000 metric tons in the first half, up 8.4 percent year-on-year. Silicon wafer output totaled 63 gigawatts, up 26 percent year-on-year, while PV cell output hit 51 GW, an increase of 30.8 percent year-on-year. Production of PV modules grew by 11.9 percent and reached 47 GW, with most of the orders coming from overseas markets, data from the association show.
"Exports to overseas markets, especially Europe and some other emerging markets like Vietnam have shown a sharp growth," said Wang Bohua, deputy head of the association, at a recent industry conference.
Wu Shengwu, deputy head for the electronic information division of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said overseas markets have been the mainstay for Chinese PV companies in the first half with exports of PV products, including silicon wafers, cells and modules, totaling $10.61 billion, up 31.7 percent year-on-year.
Silicon wafer exports reached $950 million in the first half, down 33.8 percent from the figure a year ago. Exports of PV cells and modules hit $660 million and $9 billion, up 58.2 percent and 45.1 percent respectively.
Wang pointed out that despite a drop in value terms, silicon wafer exports saw an increase in shipment terms.
Silicon wafer exports stood at 2.36 billion units (about 11.6 GW) in the first six months, up 1.2 percent year-on-year. Export volume for PV cells and PV modules were 5.3 GW and 36.1 GW, up 157.9 percent and 102.4 percent respectively.
"Chinese PV products exports have become more diversified in terms of the geographic destinations for shipments, with the focus shifting from Asia to more international destinations," said Wang.
Among the top 10 countries for Chinese PV exports, four were from Asia, down by two compared with last year. There were three European countries in the list, compared with none earlier, while there were two from Latin America, the same as last year.
Total exports of PV products to the top 10 countries in the first six months accounted for 68.3 percent of China's total exports in the sector, down 3.6 percentage points from the same period last year.
Wang said the drop suggested an increasing variety in destination countries for China's PV product exports.
Among the top 10 countries with the most PV product exports from China, Vietnam surpassed India and became China's largest overseas market, with exports of around $1.39 billion. The figures represented a fivefold growth from the level seen last year, and accounted for 13.1 percent of China's total exports in the sector.
Wang said the rise in shipments to Vietnam was mainly due to the local government's favorable measures for setting up PV projects.
Han Xiaoping, chief researcher at energy analysis website China5e, said a decline in China's PV product prices and lower production costs have made Chinese products attractive to several developing countries. Vietnam has also seen an increasing demand for clean energy products, he said.
Earlier in 2017, Vietnam had announced a feed-in tariff plan to support solar projects. Under the plan, Vietnam Electricity Corp was obligated to buy all power from solar plants that had connected to grids, at 10 US cents per kilowatt. The plan is valid only for solar projects that were put into operation by the end of June this year.
The European market also saw a rebound. China's export of PV products to European markets was $3.01 billion, up 29.2 percent year-on-year. Exports of PV products to the Netherlands rose to $1.19 billion, up 5.9 times that in the same period last year, making the Netherlands the largest market in Europe for Chinese PV products.
Han said there has been a long-lasting demand for clean energy like solar power in many European countries.
"In the past, Chinese PV companies faced great barriers in exporting their products to European markets, due to tariffs of up to 64.9 percent. The tariffs were revoked last September," Wang said.
Since 2013, the European Union had applied anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures for Chinese solar products, and set a minimum import price.