Seasonality and the end of installation rush in China have weakened prices of multi-Si products, from wafers to cells and modules, said Corrine Lin, assistant research manager for EnergyTrend, a division of TrendForce.
Polysilicon prices in China, on the other hand, have risen significantly as wafer manufacturers have been operating at full capacity and expanding capacities at the same time. Furthermore, the Chinese government has tighten its regulatory process for polysilicon imports to prevent smuggling, adding more pressure on the country’s supply.
Currently, polysilicon and mono-Si wafers are relatively high, but EnergyTrend expects them to flatten and then fall towards the end of May due to the deceleration in the overall demand. As the industry enters the year’s slowest season, all major segments of the PV supply chain along with the markets for related products and materials will witness falling prices from June onward. Demand will return in the U.S., China, Japan and India after August, and prices will start to recover by then.
Chinese smuggling investigation disrupts polysilicon price trends in different markets
In early April, Chinese authorities suddenly imposed stricter control over polysilicon imports by reviewing foreign sources of the raw material to make sure they are subject to anti-dumping and countervailing duties. The Chinese investigation continues to have an impact on the spot trade of polysilicon in the country, and the average spot price has risen to above RMB 130/kg. The recent price declines in the downstream markets are unlikely to affect polysilicon prices in China as most of the orders for May have been settled. Hence, Chinese polysilicon prices will keep rising to the first of half of May.
There are a lot of uncertainties in polysilicon markets outside China, including Taiwan and South Korea. Spot prices in these markets are supposed to go up following the rising prices in China. However, European and the U.S. polysilicon manufacturers such as Hemlock and REC Silicon are shut out of the Chinese market due to tariffs and the closing of custom loopholes. This situation may force them to dump their products in other countries, creating the possibility of price decline in Taiwan and South Korea. The only major foreign polysilicon manufacturer that is not facing a high tariff rate in the Chinese market is South Korea’s OCI. The supplier will be able to raise its prices according to the local demand.
Margins for cell products are approaching to zero due to falling demand across the supply chain
Compared with other parts of the supply chain, the PV cell market has suffered the steepest price decline since the end of the Chinese New Year holidays. Margins of cell products have been reduced to almost zero during this two month period.
Lin noted that cell makers are now asking for reduction in multi-Si wafer quotes as cell prices are anticipated to soon fall below US$0.3/W. There has been no noticeable weakness in wafer prices until very recently, and wafer suppliers did manage to maintain their prices for a short while by using the high cost of polysilicon as a justification. EnergyTrend expects decline in wafer prices to become visible in May, when poor sales and inventory pressure start to have an effect on the market.
With regard to prices of PV modules, they will continue to fall due to the developments in the cell market. Power plant companies will cite sharp decline in cell prices when they bargain down module prices.