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EU Can’t Close Borders to Chinese Solar, Energy Chief Says

The EU is looking more aid for solar manufacturers, and auctions and support for panels with high environmental and labour standards, which could give EU manufacturers an edge

A worker inspects solar panels at a site in Dunhuang, 950km northwest of Lanzhou, Gansu province, in this file image from 2013 (Reuters).


Debate continues to rage in Europe over imports of cheap Chinese solar panels, but EU leaders are sticking to their guns in saying the region cannot close its doors to such products.

EU energy policy chief Kadri Simson said on Monday the European community should support struggling local manufacturers of solar panels, but it also needs to meet its climate targets.

Factory closures among Europe’s few solar panel makers have prompted the industry to seek emergency support from Brussels – potentially including trade restrictions on cheap Chinese imports that European companies have struggled to compete with.


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However, Simson ruled out cutting off imports, which she said could compromise the EU’s ability to install enough solar energy capacity to meet climate targets. Most solar panels and parts deployed in Europe are imported from China.


Push for higher ESG standards

“There are different proposals how we can support our industry, but clearly we cannot close our borders because we need solar panels,” Simson told reporters on her arrival to a meeting of EU countries’ energy ministers.

“We have to support our industry, but we need all the products to meet our very ambitious targets,” she added.

EU countries’ energy ministers will discuss proposals to address the sector’s challenges on Monday.

The suggestions, which Simson and EU industry commissioner Thierry Breton detailed in a letter to the ministers ahead of the meeting, include using more national state aid to support solar manufacturers, and organising solar auctions and support schemes that support solar panels with high environmental and labour standards – criteria that could give EU manufacturers an edge.

Companies installing solar capacity could also commit to including EU-made products in their portfolios, said the letter, seen by Reuters. It suggested ministers jointly agree to take up some of the proposals at one of their upcoming EU meetings.

EU countries installed record levels of solar capacity last year, 40% more than in 2022. Most of those panels and parts came from China – in some cases, 95%, International Energy Agency data show.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard


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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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