The campaigning website Avaaz.org recently launched an petition positioned as an attempt to save clean energy in the face of accelerating climate change. Sounds great. But on closer inspection this ambition is rather more limited. It’s really about saving the Chinese solar energy industry… and if the allegations the EU is investigating turn out to be true, Avaav.org could help that industry drive European competitors out of business, paving the way for the Chinese to hike the price of their solar panels.
According to Avaaz.org, the nasty European Union may follow the nasty USA in imposing tariffs on Chinese solar panels in a move that ‘could kill the clean energy revolution’.
Yet on closer inspection — just reading a couple of the news stories Avaaz.org links to from that email — it becomes clear that this is a far from accurate reading of the situation. It turns out the EU is investigating allegations that the Chinese have being dumping solar panels on the EU and USA by selling them below cost price. Given what we know about Chinese factories and how well they pay their workers, these solar panels must be very cheap indeed. Not surprisingly, the New York Times reports ‘a series of bankruptcies and factory closings by European and U.S. solar panel manufacturers’ and the USA has already found the Chinese guilty and imposed anti-dumping tariffs of ‘at least 31 percent’. So it sounds perfectly reasonable for the EU to be investigating.
Avaaz.org may be well intentioned in wanting to see cheap Chinese solar panels, but it cannot be in the long-term interest of the green energy industry to see non-Chinese manufacturers forced out of the market. There’s no suggestion the Chinese sell solar panels below cost for altruistic reasons. If allowed to establish a monopoly, they will likely raise prices to a level that will achieve unusually high profits and quickly recoup the loses sustained on the alleged dumping.