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Surging PV glass prices drive up spot and average prices for modules

November 11, 2020 PV InfoLink

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Polysilicon prices

As Tier-1 producers are now delivering mono-grade polysilicon orders for November, not much new deals were struck this week and only a few were traded with a price decrease of RMB 1–2/kg. On the whole, the trading price for mono-grade polysilicon has been trending downward for several weeks. This week, prices for mono-grade polysilicon were down by RMB 1/kg at the high-priced and low-priced levels, coming in at RMB 87–90/kg in the market and RMB 89/kg on average. At present, there are growing inventories of mono-grade polysilicon; there is no shortage of mono-grade polysilicon as mono-Si wafer makers can obtain it. While mono-Si wafer prices remain as stable as ever, prices for mono-grade polysilicon will be going down slowly for a short period of time because of bulging stocks. The price trend for mono-grade polysilicon will not be clear until a new round of price negotiations kicks off sometime this month. Prices for multi-grade polysilicon—hit by weak multi demand—slipped this week by RMB 1/kg at high-and low priced levels, reaching RMB 57–60/kg in the market and staying at RMB 59/kg on average.

This week’s prices for multi-grade polysilicon stayed at RMB 57–60/kg in the market and RMB 59/kg on average. DL Silicon, a dedicated producer of multi-grade polysilicon, has shut down for equipment maintenance in response to a sluggish multi market. Moreover, because it is not clear when multi demand will start to recover, the market prospects for multi-grade polysilicon will not look any good.

Since sellers have to meet the lead time required by overseas customers, polysilicon producers started to sign new orders this week to prevent further losses induced by the downward trend in Chinese prices for mono-grade polysilicon. This week, prices for mono-grade polysilicon went down to USD 10.1–10.6/kg in the market and USD 10.4/kg on average. Prices for multi-grade polysilicon stayed at USD 7.2–7.6/kg.

Wafer prices

The downward price trend for mono-grade polysilicon is not prominent enough to cause any change in mono-Si wafer prices. Moreover, as there is stable demand for mono-Si wafers thanks to the growth of end-market demand in Q4, some manufacturers fail to produce as many mono-Si wafers as expected and bring new capacity online as scheduled, G1 and M6 wafers are running low in supply. Therefore, mono-Si wafer prices were consistent this week with their previous levels, with the market price staying at a high level. Mono-Si wafer prices were RMB 3.03–3.08/piece for G1 and RMB 3.18–3.23/piece for M6 in China and USD 0.398–0.405/piece for G1 and USD 0.418–0.425/piece for M6 in non-Chinese markets.

As prices for multi-grade polysilicon have been constant for two weeks and multi-Si wafer manufacturers are running at low capacity, the multi market is coming close to attaining a supply/demand equilibrium. Therefore, multi-Si wafer prices, which have declined for several weeks in a row, appear stable recently. However, multi-Si wafers generate no profits at their current price. Multi-Si wafer prices remained stable this week, with the trading price sitting at RMB 1.23–1.55/piece in China and USD 0.175–0.205/piece in non-Chinese markets. The multi-Si wafer market has become increasingly concentrated this year: As mono-Si wafers take a growing market share, production capacity for multi-Si wafers keeps shrinking, with many old production lines as well as manufacturers based in regions where electricity prices are high withdrawing from the market.

Cell prices

Mono-Si cell prices remained constant this week, although the prices showed small change due to marked variations in the RMB/USD exchange rate. In particular, M6 cells are running low in supply in November, and their prices are picking up. But module makers, hit by price hikes among bill of materials and a severe shortage of PV glass for M6 size, cannot obtain enough glass and have therefore put off some orders for delivery until next year. As the module sector is having a hard time, cell prices are thus struggling to climb. So, this week’s price for M6 cells sat at RMB 0.93–0.935/W.

Inventory draw of high-efficiency G1 cells intensified in China this week, due largely to shortage of M6 cells and PV glass. As a result, some module makers shifted back to G1 cells for profit reasons and the number of new deals struck for such cells picked up this week. Thus, this week’s G1 cell price hovered at RMB 0.85–0.86/W. Looking ahead, the supply of G1 cells will dwindle, and their price will see less decline and remain constant until the mid-November.

Multi-Si cell prices stayed at RMB 2.55–2.6/piece this week due to low demand. However, the prices cannot decline further, and how they will evolve depends on how multi-Si wafer prices will change. The prices may remain constant in the future.

Module prices

*The estimation of module prices takes into account lead time, so the prices may not be timely updated if the spot price varies quickly. Recently, there are marked differences between the spot price and the prices for long-term contracts. To check out the spot price, please refer to the “high-priced” entry.

Prices for cells and PV glass, both of which remain high in Q4, are rising every month, and exchange rates are varying wildly. This double whammy struck module makers in the less profitable October, forcing them to ask for customers in China and abroad of further price hikes. However, the customers can hardly accept any increase in module prices. Some PV projects in non-Chinese markets have thus been postponed for grid installation; some Chinese auctioned projects awarded to state-owned companies that are scheduled for installation sometime this year have switched to grid parity and thus will not be installed until next year. 

In the spot market, the price quotes for M6-based modules have gone up alone with the price for PV glass, reaching RMB 1.65–1.7/W. However, deals clinched at RMB 1.58–1.6/W are being executed. So, there exists a huge price gap on the part of M6-based modules.

In non-Chinese markets, deals clinched at USD 0.205/W or so are being executed. However, some module makers that find it difficult to deliver orders at such a price renegotiate with customers to postpone deliveries. Meanwhile, the spot price has risen from USD 0.22/W in October to USD 0.225–0.23/W. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to haunt non-Chinese markets, PV projects whose module contracts are being negotiated will not be grid-connected this year and so few new orders have recently been signed. With modules from low-priced orders postponed for installation while the spot price keeps rising, the average module prices in non-Chinese markets also increase.

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