"The government picking winners and losers" versus "the free market": It's the eternal debate at the center of any discussion about Chinese or American industrial and energy policy. The argument also arises in discussions between American progressives and conservatives, as well as in trade and tariff discussions. How can American solar companies compete on a level playing field with Chinese solar companies that are essentially state-owned entities?
Some will cite Solyndra or Fisker as examples of government subsidies gone wrong. Others will point out that the U.S. government's success rate in the DOE loan guarantee program was far better than that of venture capitalists in the free market.
But China doesn't have to agonize about picking winners and losers. It just does it.
There's no waiting for a solar shakeout to magically come about, or for companies like Nanosolar or SoloPower to fade away. China simply makes a list of those companies which will continue to receive government help and those firms that will be left to their own resources.
According to the Nikkei Asian Review, China's "Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has announced a list of 134 producers of silicon materials, solar panels and other components of photovoltaic systems as meeting certain conditions, as measured by 2012 production, capacity utilization and technical standards."
That's about 100 companies out of more than 500 in the country producing silicon, wafers, cells, and solar modules that will have the chance to compete. The remainder will find it difficult to participate in government-sanctioned renewable energy project auctions or to receive power or low-cost financing.
Last year, the Chinese government set a 2015 cumulative solar installation goal of 35 gigawatts. China was the second-largest solar market in the world in 2013, behind Japan and ahead of the U.S. and Germany.
Nikkei quoted Jian Xie, COO of solar cell maker JA Solar, who said, "This will help eliminate the industry's excess capacity. The list will be reviewed every six to twelve months based on business development and technology standards."
Jade Jones, GTM solar analyst, notes, "The only China-headquartered and publicly traded company that didn't make the list is LDK. The [reason for the] cut [is likely] because the company is undergoing restructuring." Jones went on to note that "44 percent manufacture polysilicon/ingots; 16 percent manufacture wafers, 39 percent manufacture cells; and 26 percent are part of module assembly."
Randy Chang at Cinnamon Solar was kind enough to translate and supply the list of the Chinese solar survivors. Here it is:
Canadian Solar Suzhou
Canadian Solar Changsu
Canadian Solar Power
Jingxing (Jinglong group)
Matsumiya (Jinglong group)
Jinglong electronics material
Shanghai JA Solar
GCL Silicon (Jiangsu Zhongneng Silicon)
Konca Solar (GaoJia)
Lightway (Guanwei Green New Energy)
Changzhou YiJing (EGing PV)
Hareon (Aotesiwei Energy)
GuoDian GD Solar
Fortune Solar (Jiangsu WanFeng)
Jetion Solar (JunXin Technology)
Eoplly New Energy (Obeli)
Phono Solar (Jiangsu Huilun)
Yongnen (SunLink PV)
CECEP Solar Energy Technology (ZongJieNeng)
JuLi New Energy
Astronergy (ZengTai Shanghai)
ENF (China Era Group)
HanZhou ZheDa Sunny Energy
Sopray (SoRi New Energy)
Bright Solar (Bailida)
Alex New Energy
RealForce Solar (Runfeng)
Himin PV (Huanming Clean Energy)
DaHai New Energy
Chinaland Solar (Hefei Zhongnan)
Hanergy (Guangdong Hannen)
CSG PVTech (DongGuan South Glass)
YiChang South Glass
Sangrao Optical Electonics
Jianxi RuiJing (RiSun Solar)
QX Solar (ZheJiang QiXin)
NB Solar (ZiDi)
Hunan Red Sun
NESI (Qingdao ChangSheng)
Xian Yellow River PV
JOLAR (JingJing Optronics)
Jing Hai Yang
Phoenix PV (FH Solar)
Yellow River Power Authority