Cut Solar PV costs at your peril

The net is closing on those bypassing Solar Panel anti-dumping regulations knowingly or otherwise – buyers beware, warns Jerry Hamilton.

The apparent absence of action on behalf of authorities to bring anti-dumping tax evaders to account, has resulted in a false sense of security and some quarters are finding temptation hard to resist with an ever-increasing number of opportunities to ‘swerve’ the regulations. 
However, the net is closing in on offenders, so buyers beware! Suggestions are strong that audits will commence as early as next month to establish where any breaches in the anti-dumping agreement have occurred. 
Any breach of the rules will be tantamount to tax evasion and the consequences are likely to be serious for the risk-takers. It is therefore imperative that the purchaser knows where they stand in the face of possible prosecution. Many companies can be duped into actually being the importer on the paperwork without understanding the full consequences. Even pre-paying the VAT could have consequences and place you in the line of fire.
It has therefore never been more  vital to carry out due diligence on your suppliers, and recognise that ignorance of the law will be no defence if you are found to be in breach, even if you have unknowingly purchased from a supplier that is in breach. The origin of the cells is the focus – even if only a small percentage of the total cell shipment is of Chinese origin, the rules will apply. Transhipment is not permitted – i.e. where cells originate from two different countries and the percentage duty owed is concealed.
Whilst most suppliers are compliant and have the utmost integrity, there are unfortunately disreputable suppliers that are putting temptation in the way of some contractors in terms of willingness to ‘disguise’ the origin of a Chinese product. This also raises the issue of risk in buying products of dubious quality, both from a performance and safety perspective. Just imagine the position if a fire occurs and the modules are found to be at fault. 
We must act as a professional industry and follow the rules, regardless of whether we agree with them. If we allow rules to be circumnavigated, then quality will also be a factor in the risk that is taken. We must not allow the industry in the UK to suffer long-term adverse effects because of some short-term decisions. Unfortunately there have been incidences of inferior products resulting in fires, you only need to look across the Channel in France to find well-documented evidence. Let’s hope we can learn lessons from the past and not expose ourselves to these dangers.
Imminent audits are just one more good reason to make sure your supplier vetting processes are robust and we would urge all potential Solar PV purchasers to act now or be prepared to face the consequences.