China ups 2012 solar industry subsidies to $2.1 bln

BEIJING Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:08pm EST

BEIJING Dec 12 (Reuters) - China has raised subsidies for its solar sector by 7 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) this year to a total of 13 billion yuan, the government said on Wednesday, the latest move to help manufacturers hit by excess capacity and waning foreign demand.

The subsidies will be used to support 5.2 gigawatts of domestic solar energy production, the finance ministry said in a statement on its website.

Beijing already provides credit lines and other support to its solar industry through state-run banks, prompting the U.S. government to slap steep final duties on billions of dollars of solar energy products from China.

A group of 25 European solar panel companies also filed a complaint with the European Commission in September, saying Chinese rivals were unfairly benefiting from illegal subsidies and adding to an earlier complaint against Chinese competitors.

China's export-focused solar panel industry has been hit hard by excess capacity and sliding foreign demand as European nations reduce subsidies for green power. Panel prices have fallen by 30 percent this year, virtually erasing firms' profits.

As a result, Chinese producers are increasingly turning to their home market, which has become one of the world's biggest for solar energy development. ($1 = 6.2460 Chinese yuan) (Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Andrew Heavens)