The usually tranquil world of European renewable energy just got exciting, as a plucky band of rebels led by EU ProSun and SolarWorld launched a last-ditch assault on the Chinese clean energy Death Star that has zapped 80% of their market.
At least, that’s the narrative the European Union would like to spread as it prepares to to slap tariffs of around 46% on imported Chinese solar panels, as The Wall Street Journal’s Matt Dalton reports.
The EU says imports of solar cells and silicon wafers from China have damaged Europe’s own solar industry because they are unfairly priced and have benefited from subsidies from the Chinese government.
While there’s little doubt that companies like German manufacturer SolarWorld have been struggling, the story isn’t quite as simple as it appears at first glance.
In Europe, the tariffs plan pits supporters of the region’s solar-panel makers against proponents of the expansion of renewable energy in more general terms.
While cheap Chinese imports have been bad for European manufacturers, they have been a boon for households that want to install them. In some European countries, the holy grail of “grid parity”—where electricity from solar cells on your roof costs the same as power from the socket on your wall—has been reached far earlier than expected.
The Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy, which represents companies that install and maintain solar panels as well as those that make them, warned that higher prices resulting from EU tariffs could destroy 85% of demand for new solar panels on the continent and cost 242,000 jobs.
China’s solar industry is also not quite as menacing as it is depicted. Some of its largest manufacturers, notably Suntech Power Holdings, have financial woes of their own as the entire global industry struggles with an overcapacity that has built up over several years.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A CONFERENCE
One of the oil and gas world’s biggest shindigs, the Offshore Technology Conference, kicked off on Monday.
Once again, the main hall at Reliant Park in Houston overflowed with oil and gas VIPs, autonomous subsea robots, fancy presentations, advanced technology and probably some margaritas too.
As is often the case at industry conferences, big themes were carried over from previous years.
BP’s upstream chief, Lamar McKay, talked about the need to keep new recruits flowing into an industry that has long complained of skills shortages and a graying workforce, as reported by Harry Weber of the FuelFix blog.
Governors of some coastal states in the U.S. complained that the Deepwater Horizon disaster had cast too long a shadow over the oil and gas industry and called for more drilling off their coastlines, as the Journal’s Alison Sider reports.
Alaskan governor Sean Parnell cited many years of federal permitting delays, on top of one company’s operational issues, as the reason that offshore exploration in his state has failed to meet aspirations.
Beyond the walls of the conference center, there were signs that the big themes in the industry are shifting.
The multibillion-dollar acquisition spree led by Chinese oil companies in recent years may be fading. Companies such as CNPC, Cnooc and Sinopec have taken on more debt, which could limit their ability to buy big in the future, writes the Journal’s Yvonne Lee.
In Europe, energy companies waiting for natural gas demand to return to its 2010 peak may have to accept that it won’t happen. The economic crisis, high gas prices and the growth of renewable energy could mean a “lost decade” for European gas demand, says the International Energy Agency.
The Christian Science Monitor asks whether the recent terrorist attacks in Algeria, security worries in Libya, punch-ups in Venezuela’s parliament and killings in Nigeria mean the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is coming apart at the seams.
A meeting of representatives of OPEC member states currently happening in Vienna partly validates the newspaper’s thesis. They are gathering to discuss criteria for the selection of a new OPEC secretary-general—an issue that was supposed to be settled last year, but was reopened after Iran complained because its candidate for the job failed to secure a recommendation from the selection panel.
Iran remains determined to have its man become the next secretary-general, reports FARS News Agency. Iraq and Saudi Arabia are also vying for the job.
The likelihood that Saudi Arabia and Iran could agree on who should take such an important job looks slim, especially when they can’t even agree on a name for the body of water that separates them. The National Iranian Oil Co. has sent a letter of complaint to the Saudi state oil company, Aramco, about a marine atlas that carried a “fake name” for the Persian Gulf, the Iranaian Students’ News Agency reports.
Oil prices were taking a break Tuesday after their sharp rise last week as traders take profits, said Commerzbank.