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REM: Chinese solar exports climb 64%

China's solar exports grew 64% in 2022 to $52bn despite global tensions, according to analysis by UK consultancy Wood Mackenzie.

"Trade tensions have taken a back seat to high power prices driven by the energy crisis, and this is causing consumers and developers from around the world to buy more solar panels from China,” said Alex Whitworth, research director at Wood Mackenzie. 

China’s exports were mainly dominated by modules in 2022 – and Europe remained the country’s top solar module export market with a 56% share, according to Wood Mackenzie findings.

But solar cells saw more than 100% growth as the global photovoltaics (PV) market expanded, with Southeast Asia taking a 31% share of China’s solar cell exports.

US tariffs on Chinese-made modules have driven module production to Southeast Asia, where many manufacturing facilities import cells from China. US President Joe Biden has paused new tariffs on Southeast Asian solar imports.

Chinese modules maintained their cost-competitiveness against other markets in 2022 and were up to 57% cheaper than US- and EU-produced modules. This price gap was mainly driven by material cost, where China holds the advantage due to low energy costs, scale advantages and government support, whereas US and EU solar module manufacturing is not competitive without subsidies.

In addition to domestic supply needs, Chinese export capacity for upstream wafers and cells will grow to more than 230 GW in 2026, more than sufficient to meet the anticipated global market demand of 170 GW in 2026 outside China.