PV trade dispute and Finnish policy in the spotlight in Europe last week

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PV manufacturers in the European Union looked as if they were aiming to rekindle one of the bloc’s biggest trade disputes last week, while Finland and Denmark mulled plans to trim support for renewable power and emissions polices.

European Union PV panel producers last week requested a prolongation of EU tariffs against Chinese competitors. EU ProSun, a group representing manufacturers in Europe of the renewable-energy technology, asked the European Commission to renew duties that are due to lapse on 7 December, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke with Bloomberg News last week on condition of anonymity.

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The appeal covers two sets of levies imposed in December 2013 to counter alleged below-cost imports of PV panels from China and alleged Chinese subsidies. The commission, the 28-nation EU’s trade authority in Brussels, must decide within the next three months whether to start so-called expiry reviews.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported in a 25 August Analyst Reaction that China exported $6.6bn of PV cells and modules in the first half of this year – of which 19.8% ($1.3bn) were to European destinations. The top Chinese exporter to Europe in June was Linuo Solar.

Meanwhile, two Nordic countries announced plans last week to change climate-friendly policies. Finland is proposing to limit wind power developments and reduce subsidy costs, according to a Bloomberg News article. The Ministry of Employment and Economy suggested changes to its feed-in tariff system, which sets price wind farm receive for their power, saying the shift may save EUR 70m ($78m) to EUR 80m by 2020.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s European Policy Market Outlook, published in July, projected Finland would overshoot its 2,500 MW wind target for 2020, with 900 MW accepted and another 1,970 MW in the middle of the application process.

In Denmark, the Liberal government is set to reverse its predecessor’s target to cut CO2 emissions by 40% from their 1990 levels by 2020. It will also drop plans to phase out coal-fired power plants and become fossil-fuel free by 2050, a Bloomberg News article said, citing leaked documents first reported by newspaper Information. The cost-cutting measures also include a reduction in green funding initiatives worth DKK 340m ($51.5m) through 2019, the article said. Danish finance minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen told Bloomberg News that growing pressure on the country’s public finances means the government needs to prioritise.

In US news last week, Southern Company bought a controlling stake in its largest solar farm, a 300 MW project in southern California, furthering the utility’s expansion beyond fossil fuels. The nation’s fourth-largest power company by market value bought the stake from First Solar, which is building the project in San Bernardino County. Southern is betting on solar and other clean sources as the cost of panels falls and new US environmental rules discourage utilities from burning coal.

Over in Japan, Hitachi announced plans to expand its reach into the market for offshore wind projects by adding a production line to make the parts of a turbine that house key components such as the gearbox and generators. The Tokyo-based company is considering adding a line to produce nacelles for 5 MW wind-power systems, by the end of March 2016, Bloomberg News reported. Japan is expected to add as much as 260 MW of offshore wind capacity within the next five years, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance Market Outlook published 1 September.

Finally, last week countries responsible for almost three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution submitted pledges to reduce emissions, according to Bloomberg News, indicating progress toward a historic climate deal the United Nations is seeking by December. Envoys from more than 190 nations last week finished a round of preparatory discussions for the Paris climate summit in December, vowing to produce a new text outlining options for their agreement in October.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance looked at countries’ emissions pledges submitted as of 13 August, and evaluated their ambitiousness. The US has taken on one of the strongest post-2020 targets so far, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysis, both in terms of absolute emissions, emissions intensity and compared with BNEF’s own business-as-usual emissions forecast.