Here’s some bad news for those making the argument that China’s solar industry is being illegally beefed up with low-interest government loans. Five key Chinese solar and wind companies -- Suntech, Yingli Green Energy, Trina Solar, JA Solar and Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology -- have only tapped $866 million of the nearly $30 billion available to them in Chinese government credit lines.
In other words, China’s biggest (and lowest-priced) solar companies have only tapped about three percent of the credit made available to them from the China Development Bank through 2010, according to a Wednesday report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
While the report doesn’t contain much information about how much more those companies may have drawn in 2011, it does find “little to suggest that such loans were far below market rates,” according to report author Jessica Ng.
Ng’s report backs up some of Greentech Media’s own calculations on the divergence between anti-Chinese solar rhetoric and financial reality. Back in September, we reported that Suntech had drawn down less than 10 percent of the $7 billion available from its China Development Bank credit facility. Not only that, but Suntech appears to have been paying between four percent and five percent on its loans, which hardly qualifies as unfairly low interest rates.
Those two facts would appear to deal a blow to the trade allegations against China being made by SolarWorld and an unnamed group of solar companies that manufacture their products in the United States. The U.S. government opened an investigation into the allegations earlier this month, buoyed by numerous reports that China has provided from $30 billion to $40 billion in credit to key solar companies over the past two years or so, potentially at very low interest rates.
But money pledged does not equal money drawn down, as Wednesday’s report makes clear. As for individual companies, the report states that Yingli Green Energy Holding had drawn down 4 percent, or $78 million, of its $5.6 billion credit line as of June 30; Trina Solar had taken $66.5 million of its $4.7 billion as of the end of 2010; Goldwind had drawn down $457 million of its $6 billion credit line as of last year; and JA Solar reported that it hadn’t drawn on any of its $4.7 billion in credit.
Any way you look at it, these kinds of statistics appear to undercut some of the key claims in the case being made by SolarWorld and its compatriots against their Chinese competitors. That’s not to mention the arguments being made by Chinese firms and their U.S. partners that a trade war will only increase the price of solar power for all concerned.
In other words, just because Solyndra couldn’t survive against cheap Chinese competition doesn’t mean we should raise prices for everyone else.