PV Price Watch: PV module prices expected to remain north of US$0.27c/W as hopes grow for pricing post-Q2 2022

PV module pricing volatility is expected to remain until at least Q3 2022. Image: PV Tech.

Combined supply chain headwinds have sent PV module prices soaring already this year, however pricing volatility is expected to remain into Q2 2022 at least, various sources have told PV Tech Premium.

Speaking to developers and distributors of various sizes and market positions, PV module prices are not expected to climb down from a US$0.28 – 0.32c/W range until at least Q3 2022, PV Tech Premium has learned.

Throughout Europe, where prices are not artificially inflated by import tariffs as they are in the US, price increases since the turn of the year have rounded on a consensus of US$0.265 – 0.28c/W Free on Board (FOB) for 188mm and 210mm modules, when procured through tenders of 100MW or larger. Numerous European EPCs spoken to by PV Tech Premium agreed with the consensus range, however some expected prices to climb down to around US$0.25c/W from the end of Q2 as various pricing inputs – not least the polysilicon price – began to normalise.

Some distributors in Europe were, however, being quoted higher prices still. One distributor told PV Tech Premium that product availability from next year remains unclear, owing primarily to continuing uncertainty relating to manufacturing output in China. Prices for modules from ‘Tier 1’ manufacturers are “certainly going above the US$0.30c/W mark” from Q1 2022, one distributor said.

Those procuring modules in the US spoken to by PV Tech Premium have indicated that prices had risen quite substantially in recent weeks, up by as much as US$0.05c/W owing to various factors including future polysilicon forecasts, regulatory risk and continued shipping constraints. Regulatory risks in particular have weighed heavy, with one leading developer telling PV Tech Premium that as long as the prospect of AD/CVD tariffs being extended to Southeast Asian-based subsidiaries remained, some manufacturers were reluctant to service the US market. “Getting a price is one thing, but getting a purchase order is another thing altogether,” the developer said.

Prices, as a result, leapt up, with quotes in the US$0.30 – 0.32c/W range for tenders of various sizes suggested to be a leading price, while other manufacturers are understood to have quoted higher prices still.

This week’s decision from the US Department of Commerce not to proceed with an investigation into alleged circumvention of AD/CVD tariffs by Southeast Asian subsidiaries has, therefore, been strongly welcomed by US developers, with one indicating to PV Tech Premium that there is now an expectation that quotes will begin to normalise. This may not be recognised immediately, with the effects of the petition still reverberating, but going into Q2 2022 and beyond, those in the market for modules are hopeful of prices in the mid- to high-20s (US$c/W).

Much of that will rest on how quickly manufacturing capacities can re-ramp, with – as PV Price Watch has covered recently – cell manufacturing facility utilisation rates still hovering just above 50% upon dampened demand. Polysilicon pricing will also remain an input, with eyes very much on any stockpiling that takes place prior to the Chinese New Year, while shipping too remains constrained.

Overall demand for solar modules in China is also suggested to be impacting on quoted prices across the board. With Chinese demand expected to far outstrip supply from module manufacturing facilities in mainland China next year, there have been anecdotal suggestions that module majors are to service Chinese demand from Southeast Asian facilities, thus reducing the quantities available for overseas markets – a matter especially relevant for the US market, where Section 201 tariffs add punitive costs to modules from China.

It’s perhaps of little wonder then that, with the AD/CVD case now settled – at least until follow-up petitions targeting country-wide circumvention, rather than company-specific acts, are made – some developers in the US are now imploring the Biden administration to do away with the “self-inflicted wound” of the S201 tariffs in February next year.