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Supply of multi-Si wafers catches up with demand, driving down prices in China and overseas markets.

March 11, 2020 PV InfoLink

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Polysilicon

*As Tier-1 polysilicon manufacturers have been reducing production of multi-grade polysilicon, PV InfoLink changed the reference of price quotes for polysilicon for multi-Si wafer, which are now based on quotes offered by those who focus on producing polysilicon for multi-Si wafer. After this adjustment, the polysilicon prices for multi-Si wafer came in at RMB 42-45/kg this week. This change is not a result of unbalanced supply and demand.
 

This week’s polysilicon prices for multi-Si wafers were RMB 43/kg. Some multi-Si wafer makers procure either polysilicon mixed with lower-grade materials or just pure multi-grade polysilicon. On the whole, polysilicon prices for multi-Si wafers stay at RMB 42–45/kg. The shortage of silicon powder in the previous weeks has not exerted any impact on producers of polysilicon for multi-Si wafers. The modest downstream demand for multi products allows polysilicon prices for multi-Si wafers to remain stable this week.

Polysilicon prices for mono-Si wafers were consistent with their previous levels—holding up at RMB 72–75/kg and averaging RMB 73/kg—because of the inventory draw by downstream customers that continued after deals sealed in early March. The prices are expected to remain stable throughout much of the month as the coronavirus pandemic is being contained and new mono-Si wafer capacities are coming online. There are only a small number of deals made for polysilicon for mono-Si wafers. Thanks to stable demand and exchange rates, new deals are clinched every week, with foreign polysilicon prices for mono-Si wafers staying at an average of USD 8.3/kg this week.

Wafer

The multi-Si wafer supply is increasing as manufacturers resume production; however, stable downstream demand led to a slight oversupply, driving down prices to RMB 1.41–1.53/piece and averaged RMB 1.51/piece. This week’s foreign multi-Si wafer prices also dropped to USD 0.195–0.199/piece, averaging USD 0.197/piece, as their Chinese equivalents were trending downwards and new orders began to be filled in the same week.

As more and more end-market customers turning to higher module power output to effectively reduce LCOE, larger mono-Si wafers become increasingly higher in demand, while M2-sized ones are seeing significantly less demand. Tier-1 makers’ list prices for the M2-sized mono-Si wafer in March are the same as those in February, but a few suppliers and traders are selling the wafer at bargain prices to reduce inventory. Thus, the wafer’s price is declining along with demand. This week, the wafer’s price at the low-priced end came down to RMB 2.95/piece in China and USD 0.382/piece in foreign markets, but showed no change at the high-priced end and at the average level. The Chinese price for the G1-sized mono-Si wafer stayed at RMB 3.27–3.35/piece thanks to increasing demand.

Cell

Due to a growing shift in mono-Si cell production lines from the M2 to G1-sized wafer, demand for the M2-sized cell continued to weaken this week, thus prompting module makers to ask for lower prices. Although Tier-1 makers managed to keep prices at RMB 0.9–0.91/W for the M2-sized cell, smaller producers offered a jumble of bargain prices—RMB 0.89/W or even lower levels—in order to shrink their bulging inventory. The price decrease sustained by the M2-sized mono-Si cell also hit the G1-sized one, whose price fell slightly at the high-priced end, but healthy foreign demand allowed its overall price to stay at RMB 0.94–0.95/W.

This week’s multi-Si cell trading prices remained consistent with their previous levels at RMB 2.8–2.85/piece as Indian developers were rushing to install PV systems before the fiscal year ends and multi-Si cell makers were operating with low utilization rates. Multi-Si cells are forecast to maintain the same price range in the short term.

Module

With module makers returning to a utilization rate of 80%–90% and producers of backsheet, EVA films, and aluminum frames resuming operation, the global production volume of modules has recovered to a monthly rate of over 10 GW.

According to the policy announced by the Chinese government on March 10, the timeframes for electricity price adjustment for March 30 and June 30 installation deadlines have both been postponed. Demand in China will therefore remain weak over the short term and need overseas demand to pick up the slack.

In foreign markets, many customers kept asking for overdue module orders to be delivered. Inventory draw is taking place in Italy, a country hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak and yet to become a GW-scale market, as well as in other European countries. Japan, another major market, saw developers busy completing PV installations to secure generous FITs despite being hit by the pandemic. So, foreign demand is holding up despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

Module supply is predicted to stabilize in May, with price quotes sustaining an oversupply-induced decline that used to be the norm. Analysis of the orders for delivery in the second half of this year, which are being negotiated, suggests that prices for mono PERC modules topping 400 W may drop to under USD 0.21/W at the end of the year.

Regarding how module prices are faring in foreign markets, prices for Indian modules remain stable in rupee terms but shows marked declines in dollar terms because of the wild fluctuations in exchanges rate between the US dollar and Indian rupee. The U.S. market continues to bustle. There is no significant change in module prices despite a reduction in Section 201 tariffs from 30% to 25% in February; the mainstream price for mono PERC modules stays at USD 0.4–0.41/W.

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