Chinese solar executive says protectionism will ‘haunt’ the renewable energy industry

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A senior executive at one of China’s largest solar equipment groups has called on Western governments to “let the best technology win”, as Chinese companies and officials China reacts to rising protectionism in the US and Europe.

Chu The Quan, head of global marketing at Arctech, a manufacturer of large-scale installation systems sun said countries risk slowing their response to climate change by introducing trade barriers to Chinese products.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Chu said that implementing protectionist measures instead of prioritizing the best technology will “come back to haunt” economic growth. recycled energy industry.

Speaking at Arctech’s headquarters in Kunshan, an industrial city west of Shanghai, Zhou said the imposition of trade barriers has unfairly impacted manufacturers of more advanced technology that do not there is excess production.

Chu argues that most companies in the solar industry that have overcapacity problems are producing cheaper, lower-end technologies. This dynamic is similar to the auto industry, where automakers using internal combustion engines have more advantages. excess capacity than electric vehicle manufacturers.

“We are concerned that geopolitical tensions are impacting our global business. What we are doing now is diversifying,” he said.

Chu added that while China has “always” been its largest market, the company is targeting growth in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America and has no plans to enter the US.

Shanghai-listed Arctech has a market capitalization of $1.9 billion, reporting annual revenue of $886 million in 2023. Arctech’s tracking system supports large-scale solar power plants grown by rotating the panels throughout the day to gain more exposure to the sun.

China accounts for more than 80% of global solar energy production, the result of years of state investment, fierce local competition and rapid growth in domestic demand for green technology In recent years.

Despite forecasts of strong long-term demand in the sector, parts of the solar manufacturing industry in China have turned to exports to sell excess supply. This has caused prices to fall and sparked complaints from the US and Europe about Beijing’s industrial policies and practices. commercial practices.

A woman works on the production line of a Chinese solar panel company
Parts of China’s solar manufacturing industry are overproducing © Xie Shangguo/VCG via Getty Images

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden Tariffs increased sharply on Chinese imports, including electric vehicles and solar cells. Two days later, he announced a plan to end Trump-era tax exemptions for a type of solar panel commonly used in large projects.

Over the past nine months, the EU has conducted investigations into China’s electric vehicle, solar and wind industries. European officials also published a report on state-induced distortions in the Chinese economy.

Chu said as Arctech tries to increase its market share outside China, it is trying to balance local requirements with the need to share technology from foreign partners without giving up intellectual property rights.

Chu said that despite concerns about rising geopolitical tensions, Arctech believes that large-scale use of renewable energy globally is “irreversible and inevitable” and expects the world to will follow China’s example in developing larger solar installations.

The company has three tracking system factories in China and is joining a growing group of leading Chinese cleantech companies, including electric vehicle maker BYD and battery maker CATL, to look for new production facilities closer to foreign markets.

Arctech already has a factory in India, in partnership with the Adani group, and is building a new factory in Saudi Arabia. In Spain, the company has research and development facilities and is planning to build another factory in Brazil.

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