November 7, 2011 / 10:22 AM / 8 years ago

China shelves U.S. solar project in trade row

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s largest solar power plant developer has put a planned $500 million U.S. project on hold over an anti-dumping trade dispute, the company’s general manager said on Monday.

CECEP Solar Energy Technology Co Ltd, a unit of the state-owned giant China Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection Group, said a planned installation of China-made panels to generate solar power in California, New Jersey and Texas would be made uneconomic by U.S. anti-dumping moves.

“If the solar panel prices increase by, say 30 percent, in the United States, following the move, then we would certainly drop the plan because there’s no profit to be made,” Cao Huabin, the general manager of CECEP Solar Energy, told a news conference in Beijing.

Prices of solar panels in the project, which account for about 70 percent of the costs, are set to jump if Washington imposes duties on imported Chinese products that U.S. rivals say breach agreed global trade rules.

“I don’t see any alternatives to Chinese solar panels,” Cao said, who described Chinese products as having “low prices but good quality.”

Seven solar manufacturers led by the U.S. arm of SolarWorld AG last month asked Washington to impose hefty duties on China solar imports. European firms may ask for similar action.

Chinese solar firms are already grappling with huge debts, tepid demand and falling prices.

“It’s almost for sure that some Chinese manufacturers will go bust, and some have to cut production sizes,” Cao said.

“If Chinese solar panel manufacturers can’t survive, their equipment suppliers in Europe can’t survive; if there are no cheap Chinese solar panels in the market, many U.S. solar power developers will be forced to stop their plans,” he warned.

China had 11.5GW of solar panel output in 2010, or 60 percent of the world’s total, but about 90 percent of the products were exported to overseas markets, mainly Europe.

Cao said CECEP Solar Energy, a two-year old entity which is spending 3 to 5 billion yuan ($472 million to $787 million) a year at domestic solar power plants, hopes a booming domestic market will offset any fall in overseas orders.

The Chinese government has decided to boost solar power installations to 10 GW by 2015 and, according to local media reports, to 50 GW by 2020.

Cao said that although none of CECEP Solar Energy’s invested solar power plants would make substantial profits without government subsidies, he is confident about the future.

“We plan to make an initial public listing in 2013,” he said.

Reporting by Zhou Xin and Nick Edwards; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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