Discover why the SETI Alliance was established and its role in the solar energy industry.
Photovoltaic technology made big advances in the first decade of 21st century in USA and then Europe. Already in 2010 USA was a major exporter of PV. The new industrial giant China was not to be left far behind. With its resources of cheap labor, electricity and governmental determination China was soon mass-producing cheap PV panels and other equipment, and exporting to EU and USA. US and European manufacturers, especially German manufacturers were threatened. Many manufacturers were not able to match the low pricing levels of the solar modules manufactured in China and multiple manufacturers closed their doors. The Chinese not only manufactured in China mainland, they also established companies or subsidiaries in Europe. It was natural for the German and other European companies and other stakeholders to take action and try to reverse the situation.
The Solar Wars
SolarWorld AG took the lead and petitioned both EU and the US against Chinese imports mentioning that European industries were threatened due to illegal Chinese trade practices. Certain Chinese sponsored companies in Europe like Yingli opposed this apparently on the excuse of free trade. They formed an alliance of over 470 of various entities involved in all aspects of PV technology supply chain on 1st march 2012. It was named the Alliance for Affordable Solar Energy (AFASE). SolarWorld also cobbled together an alliance called the EU Prosun which consisted of most of the European Solar companies. Both professed they supported free and fair trade, but Prosun accused the Chinese of dumping, which was an illegal practice. . It was alleged by Prosun that the AFASE was manipulated by companies (Suntech, Trina Solar, and Yingli) which were themselves controlled by the Chinese. Thus an economic war like situation developed
The efforts of EU Prosun did bear fruit, and after an extended study, a phased program of rising import duties was announced by EU. This was done after negotiations involving the Chinese authorities. Penalties were imposed on Chinese products in 2012 by USA and 2013 by the EU. Chinese government also retaliated by imposing duties on US solar panels in China.
The SETI Alliance
Proponents and opponents of sanctions remained locked in debate and still are. In this background International center for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) headquartered at Geneva cobbled together another grand alliance called Sustainable Energy Trade Initiative (SETI) which is a conglomeration of many entities who are stake holders in technologies related to green energy. They include research bodies, organizations (private, government, or intergovernmental), governments, academia, and, trade and industry bodies.. Other founding members are: Global Green Growth Institute, Seoul/Korea; Governments of Norway, Denmark, and the United Kingdom; and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The scope of SETI is not restricted to photovoltaics only but spans all ‘green’ energy. Its object is to promote fair trade and research in clean energy.
SETI now includes almost a thousand entities. AFASE thought it wiser to dissolve itself on 08 May 2013 and join the much larger SETI Alliance.