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Dropping hope of rescue, some European photo voltaic companies head to US By Reuters

By Sarah McFarlane and Riham Alkousaa

FRIEBURG, Germany (Reuters) – European governments resulting from transfer to assist their solar energy producers this week shall be too late to cease photo voltaic panel maker Meyer Burger (SIX:) packing up a German manufacturing facility to ship manufacturing to the US.

The plant in Freiberg in japanese Germany closed in mid-March with the lack of 500 jobs, because the Swiss-listed agency joined a rising listing of European renewable vitality manufacturing factories shutting down or transferring. Prior to now 12 months, a minimum of 10 have stated they’re in monetary difficulties. 

On a current go to to the positioning, big white robotic arms hung dormant over empty wood pallets as staff ready the final manufacturing line for shutdown. Talks with the German federal authorities to attempt to safe a future for the manufacturing facility ended with out success in late March, an organization spokesperson informed Reuters. 

Germany’s financial system ministry stated it was conscious of the “very critical state of affairs” of German firms and has been analyzing funding choices with the business for over a 12 months. It agreed to present Meyer Burger an export credit score assure for gear produced in Germany for use on the U.S. factories, which is able to assist a website close by however will not save the Freiberg one.

The closure, which in a single sweep diminished European photo voltaic panel manufacturing by 10%, comes regardless of a increase in wind and photo voltaic vitality in Europe. Additions to renewable vitality capability, together with photo voltaic panels, are operating at file tempo, in keeping with information from the Worldwide Power Company.

However Europe-based producers that offer these panels are being crushed by competitors from China and the U.S., whose governments give extra assist to their producers.

The state of affairs poses a dilemma for European governments eager to combat local weather change: Both provide extra assist to make sure native manufacturing can keep aggressive, or enable the unfettered circulate of imports to maintain up the tempo of installations. A gathering in Brussels between European vitality ministers on Monday will make a gesture of assist for the struggling business.

China is increasing photo voltaic output and now accounts for 80% of the world’s photo voltaic manufacturing capability. The price of producing panels there may be round 12 cents per watt of vitality generated, in contrast with 22 cents in Europe, in keeping with analysis agency Wooden Mackenzie.

U.S. subsidies introduced as a part of the 2022 Inflation Discount Act enable some renewable vitality producers and mission builders to say tax credit, that are attracting companies from inside the European Union and past.

Meyer Burger says its plans embody a photo voltaic panel manufacturing facility in Arizona and a photo voltaic cell manufacturing facility in Colorado.

“We made a daring transfer within the absence of any business coverage assist in Europe and shifted a photo voltaic cell growth mission from Germany to the U.S.,” its chief govt Gunter Erfurt informed Reuters in an interview. 

Equally, battery firm Freyr which operates largely in Norway, has stopped work at a half-finished plant close to the Arctic Circle and is specializing in plans for a plant within the U.S. state of Georgia after Washington introduced the coverage.

Freyr stated in February it had modified its registration to the U.S. from Luxembourg.

“We did spend fairly a little bit of time attempting to essentially make it possible for we weren’t committing a mistake,” stated Birger Steen, chief govt of Freyr: The corporate first hunted for assist from Norwegian or European governments.

“We bought to the purpose the place we concluded that that type of coverage degree response was not forthcoming.”

Requested to remark, Norway’s ministry of commerce and business stated that it had launched an industrial coverage framework concentrating on vitality transition applied sciences together with photo voltaic and batteries, however didn’t instantly deal with questions on further funding for the businesses on this story.


At Monday’s assembly, business affiliation Photo voltaic Energy Europe will launch a voluntary constitution for governments and corporations to check in assist of photo voltaic manufacturing vegetation. However the constitution, which says that consumers of photo voltaic panels ought to embody some home manufacturing in what they purchase, shouldn’t be enforceable, Photo voltaic Energy Europe stated.

Michael Bloss, EU parliament member for Greens, launched a petition earlier this month calling for motion at a European degree to rescue panel producers. 

Bloss says he’s pushing for the European Fee to arrange a 200 million euro ($213 million) fund to purchase up unused European-made photo voltaic panels, however Europe has been unwilling to pursue that. The European Fee declined to remark.

“We’re — in headlines and Sunday speeches — very a lot in favour of making our personal photo voltaic business, however then in motion, nothing occurs,” Bloss informed Reuters.

“The constitution shall be extra like a political declaration signed by member states, photo voltaic firms and the Fee, it is extra long run, it has no instant impact.”

In February, European policymakers adopted the Internet-Zero Trade Act, a set of measures together with a goal to supply 40% of the area’s clear tech wants by 2030. 

The earlier month, the EU additionally accredited nearly $1 billion of German state assist for a Swedish battery producer, Northvolt, to assist it arrange a manufacturing plant in Germany after Northvolt threatened to take its enterprise to the US. It was the primary time the bloc made use of an distinctive measure permitting member nations to step in with assist when there is a danger of funding leaving Europe.

However assist for ongoing operations has not been forthcoming, amid political disagreement over how a lot public funds ought to go to struggling companies.

Choices about supporting industries or companies like Meyer Burger are right down to member states, a spokesperson for the European Fee informed Reuters. Germany’s financial system and local weather ministry believes assist to take care of an current firm like Meyer Burger wouldn’t be authorized “if there’s a lack of market prospects from the corporate’s perspective,” a spokesperson informed Reuters.

Potential prospects — renewable vitality installers that rely closely on low cost Chinese language imports — have additionally pushed again towards any new subsidies for native panels, arguing such strikes may damage them by inflicting shoppers to postpone orders as they anticipate the subsidies to kick in.


Greater than a 12 months’s value of low-price imported panels sit in European warehouses awaiting set up, in keeping with consultancy Rystad Power and photo voltaic panel makers. Reuters couldn’t independently confirm that estimate.

That backlog may develop as Chinese language capability continues to broaden, Rystad says: If all of the plans Chinese language companies have introduced go forward, China’s business will be capable of make twice as many panels as are anticipated to be put in worldwide in 2024, stated Marius Mordal Bakke, senior analyst at Rystad.

Dresden-based Solarwatt is carrying six to 9 months of shares, up from round six weeks, its chief govt Detlef Neuhaus informed Reuters in March.

The corporate laid off round 10% of its staff final 12 months and says its native panel manufacturing is operating at roughly one-third of capability. 

“This business is so vital for the longer term, we can’t enable that we’re dropping all our competence,” stated Neuhaus.

Analysts say it is not clear what assist may really assist, as a result of companies like Meyer Burger produce a fraction of the volumes made by these in China, or deliberate within the U.S.

“They’re tiny, so they’ll at all times battle with quantity, not simply to compete with Chinese language producers but in addition with U.S. producers,” stated Eugen Perger, senior analyst at Analysis Companions AG. 

And native clear know-how industries are so globally intertwined it is exhausting for European producers to think about a completely unbiased provide chain. 

Norway-based NorSun, which produces photo voltaic wafers – skinny silicon movie utilized in panels – stated Chinese language gear is essential to each its plant in Norway and a proposed facility within the U.S. The corporate has halted manufacturing on the Norway plant whereas it decides whether or not to improve it. 

Many of the gear for both mission must come from China. “There’s primarily no different possibility,” stated Carsten Rohr, chief industrial officer at NorSun.


Freiberg has been right here earlier than. For the reason that Nineties, firms organising operations within the area have benefited from federal funding programmes to rebuild east Germany and assist it shut the hole with western Germany’s prosperity. 

New industries sprang up, together with in photo voltaic and semiconductors. However Freiberg took a giant hit within the 2010s after China’s photo voltaic business boosted manufacturing and undercut rivals.

In 2020, the German authorities eliminated a cap on subsidies for solar energy installations which helped raise demand. In 2021, the EU’s Inexperienced Deal signalled political assist for future demand, and Russia’s full invasion of Ukraine additionally helped photo voltaic deployment.

Meyer Burger, which is headquartered in Gwatt, Switzerland, solely arrange manufacturing in Freiberg in 2021 because the business began coming again to life. It refurbished a bankrupt photo voltaic firm’s plant that had stood unused for nearly three years. 

For some time it turned one of many city’s largest employers, mayor Sven Krueger confirmed.  

“That is the second time the German photo voltaic business is in danger. They failed as soon as already,” stated apprentice Max Lange, 19, greeting colleagues with a silent nod as they cleaned idled equipment on the manufacturing facility ground.

© Reuters. A solar panel rolls off the assembly line as part of the last production of solar modules at the Meyer Burger Technology AG plant, due to an announced closure of the plant, in Freiberg, Germany March 12, 2024. REUTERS/Annegret Hilse

“If it fails once more, I doubt that I can pursue a profession within the European photo voltaic business, as a result of I do not suppose it is going to come again,” he stated, questioning aloud if he may as an alternative discover work within the U.S. photo voltaic business.   

($1 = 0.9397 euros)



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