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Lower costs insulate photovoltaic market against external shocks

By Jiang Xueqing in Chengdu | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-26 09:36
A view of the solar power project of Tongwei Group in Rudong county, Jiangsu province, which integrates fish farming with photovoltaic power generation. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The development of the Chinese photovoltaic power industry will not be restricted by industrial policies launched by other countries, as the cost of photovoltaic power generation has dropped significantly and the industry no longer relies heavily on subsidies, said an industry insider.

"Ten years ago, the average cost of electricity from solar PV in China was 5 to 6 yuan ($0.73 to $0.87) per unit, so PV power plants used to need significant subsidies. When the government made changes to the subsidy policies, the industry fluctuated violently. But that is no longer the case. Today, the cost has fallen sharply to 0.3 to 0.4 yuan per unit of electricity, even lower than the average cost of electricity generated by coal-fired power plants nationwide," said Zhou Dan, chief financial officer of Chengdu-headquartered Tongwei Solar Co Ltd, one of the world's leading manufacturers of monocrystalline and polycrystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules.

He said that the decline in cost came from technological advancements and the systemic advantage formed by the Chinese PV power industry over the past few years.

"In the past, when the European Union and the United States imposed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy measures for solar photovoltaic products made and assembled in China, the Chinese PV power industry was unable to withstand a single blow because key elements of the industry - core technologies, core raw materials, equipment, expertise and the lion's share of the market - were all outside China.

"Nowadays, however, China has gained systemic advantages by forming high-quality supply and value chains in the industry. Chinese PV companies have expanded business worldwide. Even if the US shuts its doors on us, we still have a broad overseas market, for the US accounted for just 7 percent of the global solar PV market last year," he said.

Chinese customs data showed that during the first four months of this year, 75 percent of silicon photovoltaic cells manufactured by Tongwei Solar were exported indirectly as components of domestically made solar photovoltaic products. The Netherlands replaced India and Japan as the top export destination for the company.

The photovoltaic cell manufacturing capacity of the company reached 12 gigawatts at the end of 2018 and is expected to increase to 30 gigawatts at the end of 2020, taking global market share of more than 20 percent by then, said Zhou.

Tongwei Solar obtained a 400-million-yuan working capital loan from Industrial Bank Co Ltd, also known as CIB, and is negotiating with the bank for a project loan with a value of more than 1 billion yuan. For its parent company, Tongwei Group Co Ltd, the bank granted a total credit line of 3.5 billion yuan.

As of the end of last year, the Chengdu branch of CIB had provided green financing to 370 clients, and the outstanding green finance had exceeded 20 billion yuan, up by nearly 40 percent year-on-year, said Ye Xiangfeng, president of the bank's Chengdu branch.

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