Billions of dollars of Chinese solar panels sit in European warehouses

Chief Europe Correspondent
Line chart showing imports of solar panels from China to the EU significantly outpaces EU solar installations in recent years.
Source: Rystad Energy

European imports of Chinese solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have significantly outpaced installations, underscoring Europe’s continued dependence on inexpensive Chinese solar panels to achieve the Continent’s renewable energy goals while its own manufacturing efforts ramp up.

An analysis from Rystad Energy, an Oslo-based consultancy, found about $7.6 billion (€7 billion) worth of solar panels are sitting in warehouses across several EU member states.

That’s about 40 gigawatts (GW) of capacity currently in storage, the same amount installed across the Continent in all of 2022.

The gap between inventory and installation can be partly explained by bottlenecks, including a shortage of skilled labor and delays of other critical materials — a trend likely to continue until 2025, the analysis states.

Europe’s spending on solar imports has nearly quadrupled in the last five years, the consultancy found, surging from $6 billion (€5.5 billion) in 2018 to more than $22 billion (€20 billion) last year. Most of that spending (91%) was on Chinese products.

China dominates the production of both polysilicon and PV modules (we’ve written about polysilicon before), which means panels made in China can be two-thirds cheaper than European-manufactured ones.

The panels are heading to countries like the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Poland and France. Last year, the Netherlands imported more than 10 times the solar capacity installed domestically during the same period.