China to strictly control new solar capacity expansion, boost tech innovation

Solar panels are seen in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China April 18, 2017. Picture taken April 18, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will strictly control the expansion of solar power production capacity and encourage more innovation, the industry ministry said in new guidelines Thursday, to improve technology and cut production costs in its fast-growing solar sector.

The guideline, issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), follows the United States placing steep tariffs on solar panel imports in late January.

The guidelines set a minimum research and development (R&D) investment amount for solar companies of 10 million yuan ($1.58 million) each year, and set minimum performance standards such as solar cell efficiency and the attenuation rate of the solar products.

Over the past three years, China has been promoting a “Top Runner Program” to encourage solar companies to produce high-efficiency products by granting subsidies and offering government contracts.

China, the world’s biggest solar products maker, produced a total of 87 gigawatts (GW) of silicon wafers and 68 GW of solar cells last year. It currently has a total of 130.3 GW of installed solar capacity.

The ministry’s new guidelines will take effect from Thursday.

Reporting by Muyu Xu and Josephine Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger