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Prices in PV Supply Chain Expected to Drop in Late November, Says TrendForce

Published: Nov 21,2016

Product orders are tapering off across the PV supply chain as some projects that are required to connect to the grid before the year-end deadline are almost completed. Though polysilicon, wafer and cell prices have been on the rise during the past one and half months, the market demand has cooled down a bit. Corrine Lin, assistance research manager of EnergyTrend, a division of TrendForce, stated that prices of polysilicon, wafers and cells will soon experience a small decline.

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“With the exceptions of Japan and India, no installation rush will be taking place in most regional markets in the first quarter of 2017,” said Lin. “Therefore, prices of PV products are unlikely to go up again before the next Chinese New Year holidays due to the lack of stock-up demand.” EnergyTrend’s latest analysis finds that prices in PV supply chain may start to fall in the second half of this November, and the downward price trend will continue into the first quarter of 2017.”

In China’s polysilicon market, prices are currently kept high at RMB 130~135 per kilogram. While most Chinese polysilicon suppliers have completed the annual maintenance of their production facilities, it will take time before these factories will return to full operation. Polysilicon supply therefore will remain a bit tight in the short run.

Wafer production capacity on the whole has increased in November and the supply of multi-Si wafers is sufficient. While quotes for multi-Si wafers are still on the rise, the actual spot prices have peaked. Currently, prices of high-efficiency multi-Si wafers have come to RMB 5.2~5.3, or US$0.68~70, per piece.

The PV cell market has been influenced by the falling prices in the downstream markets. In November, multi-Si high efficiency cells with conversion efficiency of 18.4% and above have seen their prices peaked around US$0.238~0.25 per watt. Quotes for same products in China have also stayed around RMB 1.85 per watt.

“The widening price gap between Taiwanese and Chinese cell makers means that the anticipated drop in demand will first affect Taiwanese cells,” said Lin. “The rest of PV supply chain will again look to the price trend of Taiwanese cells as a market indicator. Spot prices of standard mono-Si cells worldwide have remained stable during November, residing in the range of US$0.25~0.26, or RMB 1.9~1.95, per watt.”

Prices of PV modules are on a freefall and product margins have been eroded significantly for major manufacturers. A survey of orders for modules to be delivered next year indicates that module prices will drop below US$0.38 per watt in 2017.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) have made some changes to its second draft document regarding opinions on the country’s feed-in-tariff (FiT) program. The document, which was released in late October 2016, contains a proposal to move back next year’s deadline for grid connection, from the originally expected June 30 to September 30, 2017.

“If the Chinese government adopts this proposal, then country’s PV plant developers will moderate their pace of system installation next year,” Lin noted. “Under this scenario, the supply chain will not experience a general price surge between from the first to the third quarter of 2017 because demand in China will more evenly distributed throughout the year compared with the situation in the first half of 2016.”

In addition to China not having definite FiT policies for next year, the result of the U.S. presidential election has also created a lot of the uncertainty in the U.S. solar demand. “Globally, the market outlook for 2017 has become murkier, but capacity expansion will occur in all sections of the supply chain,” said Lin. “Since the entire solar industry expects prices to be on a sharp downtrend next year, individual PV enterprises will be working hard to further reduce their costs.”

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