Different from the anti-dumping case that is currently under investigation, another PV trade war has recently started in India: India’s Director General of Safeguards (DGS) suggested India to impose a temporary safeguard measure of 70% on the “solar Cells whether or not assembled in modules or panels” from China, Malaysia, and other regulated countries. This adds more uncertainties to India and Japan which are the major support to demand in the first quarter of 2018.
The government hasn’t announced the final ruling time, but it’s no doubt that another business opportunity has appeared for the capacities in Vietnam and Thailand that are excluded from the investigation. Before a temporary safeguard measure is implemented, worldwide PV supply chain prices will still fluctuate following the supply/demand movement. Both cell and module sectors have started to struggle with weaker downstream demand, leading to lower cell prices in China this week.
The polysilicon market still witnessed tight supply, with the price reaching RMB 153-157/kg. Like Chinese polysilicon prices, prices remained high in the overseas as well. But overseas wafer makers can’t tolerate the increasing polysilicon prices because their manufacturing costs are much higher than Chinese wafer makers. Despite the higher polysilicon prices in the overseas this week, a price seesaw is formed.
Although wafer is still priced at RMB 5.4/piece (US$ 0.725/piece) for the two leading manufacturers Longi and Zhonghuan, smaller-scale mono-Si wafer makers couldn’t increase the prices after clearing out the stock at a cheaper price in the end of 2017. Consequently, wafer is priced at RMB 5.1-5.3/piece (US$ 0.7-0.71/piece) for smaller-scale manufacturers. Due to the low transactions of 190µm products, the price of 190µm is US$ 0.015-0.02/piece higher than 180µm wafers. It seems that the high cost effectiveness of mono-Si has temporarily stabilized wafer demand and prices. Yet, as the off-peak season arrives, it will still take a while for mono-Si demand to increase.
The supply of diamond wire (DW) multi-Si wafers still increased month by month. Multi-Si wafer prices remained relatively stable under the tight supply condition. The average trading price of multi-Si wafers reached RMB 4.5-4.65/piece (US$ 0.64/W) this week.
Multi-Si cell makers have started to feel the price pressures this week. Prices have reached RMB 1.65/W for newly-negotiated multi-Si cell orders. Cell makers worried the most about low-efficiency products because it’s very difficult to find clients now, leading to a rapid decline of prices for 18.2-18.4% multi-Si cells.
The transaction of conventional mono and mono-Si PERC cells remained weak, but the price drop has slowed down. Recent prices are not that different from the end of last month. Overseas mono-Si PERC cell prices have dropped further to US$ 0.24/W.
The weaker Chinese demand caused mono and multi-Si module prices to decline further. The average trading price of conventional modules dropped to RMB 2.65-2.68/W in China and will drop further. Since February and March are the months with the weakest demand in the first half of 2018, manufacturers are not likely to stock much before the Lunar New Year.
On the other hand, aside from the anti-dumping case that is currently under investigation in India, the proposal of a temporary safeguard measure of 70% is imminent. According to InfoLink’s customs data, China’s module shipment to India surpassed 8.1GW from January to November 2017, representing 31.6% of China’s total module shipment. Meanwhile, China’s cell shipment to India reached 1.1GW, accounting for 35.8% of China’s total cell shipment. In addition, China shipped 1.2-1.3GW of modules to India per month during the peak-selling season of February and March last year. If a temporary safeguard measure is put into practice recently, demand will be lower than anticipation from February to March, leading to more significant decline of prices.