Business Maverick

Business Maverick

China’s solar panel giants say prices are near the bottom

China’s solar panel giants say prices are near the bottom
Chinese companies have warned the price of solar panels is bottoming out. (Photo:Andreas GücklhornUnsplash)

Plunging prices for solar panels, which have slashed profits across the sector, don’t have much room to fall further, according to the chairmen of two of the industry’s biggest firms.

The current slump is “irrational” and there’s only a small probability it will continue, Jinko Solar chairman Li Xiande said in a joint presentation hosted by the Shanghai Stock Exchange. Li answered written questions from investors at the event on Tuesday along with executives from other firms, including Trina Solar Co. and CSI Solar Co.

The companies are trying to turn a corner after solar manufacturers saw profits vanish as a wave of new factories that were aimed at capturing a growing market came online in the past year. Instead, the new supply has overwhelmed demand, sending panel prices to record lows and annihilating margins. 

“The price of photovoltaic modules is currently at a low level, and there’s limited room for further decline,” Trina chairman Gao Jifan said at the presentation.

Solar module prices are at about half the level they were in March 2023, BloombergNEF data show. China, by far the world’s largest market, is facing grid constraints that may slow new additions. Installations in March were 32% lower than the previous year, according to the National Energy Administration. 

Jinko still expects global demand for panels to rise 20% this year, which will help rebalance the market. The company has already increased its production schedule in the second quarter compared to the first, and is operating its most advanced production lines at high rates, Li said. 

Companies were also asked about overseas expansion plans, amid complaints from officials in the US and Europe that solar manufacturing overcapacity in China is stymieing efforts to develop supply chains elsewhere in the world. Trina said its 5-gigawatt module factory in Texas will start production in the fourth quarter. Jinko said the expansion of its Florida facility came online during the first quarter, and that it’s already ordering equipment for another extension.

CSI Solar played down the impact of a US ruling that could impose tariffs as high as 254% on solar cells and modules made by Chinese firms in Southeast Asia found to be circumventing existing import taxes. Most leading companies have expanded their production chains in the region in order to meet conditions exempting them from the duty, said Yan Zhuang, the company’s chief executive officer. 

“Regarding the expiration of the US anti-circumvention exemption period for Southeast Asia, the industry has been anticipating it,” he said. “The impact of this policy after the exemption period is over should not be significant.”

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