On Feb.24th, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced it will make a substantial cut to the PV rate in its feed-in tariff (FiT) program for renewable energies. The rate of return for the PV system as a whole has also been revised significantly downward. This in turn seriously affects Japan’s 2015 PV market, which is projected to shrink perhaps by 20%. This will naturally add uncertainties to the global market. The 2015 PV EXPO, which took place in Tokyo during the final week of February, reflected the shift in the market towards residential applications, including high-efficiency modules and storage systems for home use. As FiT programs around the world are seeing a rate reduction, end users will base their decisions on unit cost. It is expected that low-cost systems will become mainstream this year. High-efficiency PV products on the other hand will require practical solutions that reduce system installation and labor costs in order to become more attractive.
Angus Kao, an anlayst of EnergyTrend of TrendForce, said the development in the global PV market will likely resemble Japan, and the entire supply chain will see some volatility in the market during March. “Orders are returning, but the market will not completely turnaround,” Kao added, “and the average spot prices for PV products will keep going down because the upstream inventories are still plentiful.”
As for polysilicon, most plants began work on schedule. However, downstream manufacturers officially began work in turn on Mar.2nd and after. Moreover, most of the present dealings involve getting rid of the existing inventories, so spot trading is expected to be light. Non-Chinese polysilicon manufacturers have piled up stocks during Chinese New Year holidays, so their average spot price has bigger drop-off range and is projected to arrive at US$16.5/kg. The price for Chinese polysilicon is generally flat because there is still a sizable existing stock. Until it is used up, the price for Chinese polysilicon is unlikely to go up. The price for polysilicon in March is estimated to be in the range of US$16-19/kg.
The price for wafers has come out flat as well, with wafers from the first-tier manufacturers staying at around US$0.86-0.87/pc. The first-tier manufacturers are still expecting that the price will eventually be kept at US$0.87/pc or above. For the second and third-tier manufacturers, however, they are seeing their wafer price falling to US$0.85/pc because demands have yet to return. If the second and third-tier manufacturers continue to slash their prices in order to grab more orders and make profit from quick turnover, then the average wafer price is likely to gradually fall in March.
Regarding the price of PV cells, it will experience a small fluctuation. The first-tier manufacturers have already received their orders before Chinese New Year. The second-tier manufacturers on the other hand began work later, so they are just now starting production one by one. Demands from Japan are returning and manufacturers dedicated to this market have done well in terms of incoming orders. Orders from other markets, however, are still unconfirmed, and this is affecting both production and price. Quote prices are set to remain weak. EnergyTrend projects that the price of high-efficiency multi-Si cells will be around US$0.32-0.33/w. The price for Taiwanese multi-Si cells will fall to US$0.30-0.31/W, while the price for the Chinese counterparts will fall to US$0.29-0.30/W.
As for PV modules, most manufacturers have kept a normal level. The number of completed system installations in China last year was lower than expected. The manufacturers will continue working on unfinished installations of ground-mounted systems as well as taking on new projects. Furthermore, this year’s market projections for commercial and residential rooftop systems has been positive. On the whole, the general market outlook for PV modules is optimistic. On another note, high-efficiency modules from mainstream brands are now capable of reaching 260-270W range for multi-Si and 275-285W for mono-Si in terms of output. Modules with an output of 300W and over were also revealed at the PV EXPO. Kao believes that with the mass production of high-efficiency modules becoming steady and regular, it will take about six months for a generation change. High-efficiency modules will see their prices stabilize as they replace the older 250-255W modules. Their prices in the near future might also even be slightly lower than their current prices. Low-efficiency modules by contrast will see their prices fall as they are being phased out from the market.