China has raised its solar exports by 64% year-on-year to USD 52 billion (EUR 48.3bn) in 2022 thanks to its cheaper offerings compared to US and EU production, Wood Mackenzie reports.
"Trade tensions have taken a back seat to high power prices driven by the energy crisis, and this is causing consumers and developers from around the world to buy more solar panels from China,” research director Alex Whitworth said in a statement.
The latest analysis by the global research and consultancy group shows that China’s solar cell exports have soared by more than 100%, with almost a third being directed toward Southeast Asia. This region has established itself as a module production hub because of US tariffs on Chinese imports.
Meanwhile, Europe continues to be China’s top solar module export market with a 56% share. Benefitting from low energy costs, scale advantages and government support, China offers panels that are up to 57% cheaper than those manufactured in the US and EU, Wood Mackenzie points out.
China’s export capacity for upstream wafers and cells is expected to surpass 230 GW in 2026, which would be more than sufficient to meet the estimated non-Chinese market demand of 170 GW by that year. On the other hand, its export capacity for modules is seen to grow gradually to 149 GW by then.
Whitworth believes that even with the planned investments in US production supported by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), “there will be persistent dependence on imports of components from Asia” in the coming years because incentives cannot bridge the manufacturing cost gap in full. The same can be said for Europe and India’s efforts in terms of policies.
“China’s massive domestic market scale and supply chain are in a league of their own and appear to be on a sustainable growth trajectory, making it hard for other global players to displace. The race to dominate global solar markets this century is not over, but Chinese companies have a strong lead and are not slowing down,” Whitworth concludes.