If we say which part of the photovoltaic industry chain is currently the most tightly supplied, the answer must be glass—the shortage and price increase of silicon, EVA, and backplanes can all be quickly solved through expansion, and the cycle is relatively short, but the shortage of glass is almost Unsolvable. On the one hand, due to policy restrictions such as the “Implementation Measures for Capacity Replacement in the Cement Glass Industry”, relevant companies cannot expand production on a large scale and can only carry out limited capacity replacement; on the other hand, even if the competent authority relaxes the restrictions, the glass production expansion cycle will have to About a year and a half, it is said that “far water is difficult to quench near thirst.”
Since the third quarter of this year, relevant companies and media have continued to call for the relaxation of glass expansion restrictions. However, judging from the results of communication between Sobee Photovoltaic Network and relevant companies, what they most want to see is not a simple announcement that allows glass products to be free Expansion is an orderly deregulation of technological and innovative products. At the same time, component products must be standardized as soon as possible to reduce glass size requirements. “Conditions allow a small number of technologically advanced companies to expand production of superior products, unify module sizes, and avoid too concentrated downstream demand. Only in this way can the problem of the shortage of photovoltaic glass be fundamentally solved.” said a glass company official.

The price trend of photovoltaic glass

According to PV InfoLink statistics, the average price of 3.2mm glass last week was 42 yuan/㎡, the highest price was 48 yuan/㎡, and the average price of 2.0mm glass reached 34 yuan/㎡. According to the situation learned by Soby Photovoltaic.com, some glass companies have provided quotations of more than 50 yuan/m2 to second and third-tier module companies. The transaction price of 42 yuan/m2 only exists between large glass companies and first-line module companies that have long-term stable cooperation. In the future, it is likely to continue to rise.

Why photovoltaic glass can “willfully” increase prices? Are production costs controllable? After communicating with relevant companies, the author learned that glass production costs mainly include raw materials and fuels. Among them, the most core raw materials are quartz sand and soda ash, and the fuel is mostly natural gas. “Many glass companies place the original sheet production in Anhui, mainly because there are large-scale quartz sand mines in the area, which can meet production needs.” said a glass company technician.

According to reports, the original film is only the first step in the production of photovoltaic glass. If you want to obtain photovoltaic glass that can be used in the module, you need to go through loading, edging, punching, cleaning, drying, coating, glazing, tempering, unloading, and packaging. Wait for more than a dozen procedures, and a number of intermediate inspection steps. “The previous increase in glass prices was caused by the imbalance of market supply and demand on the one hand, and on the other hand, it was also related to the prices of soda ash and natural gas.” The person in charge of the above-mentioned glass company pointed out that after a wave of increases in the third quarter, the price of soda ash has stabilized recently. The price of natural gas has risen, and some regions have imposed production restrictions on glass companies in order to meet environmental protection requirements, which will aggravate the shortage of supply in the market and push up the price of glass.

In the eyes of many industry insiders, the continued rise in glass prices is no longer in line with the law of value. Unlike silicon materials, even if the price of photovoltaic glass rises, it cannot increase market supply. On the contrary, it will force component companies to reduce production and affect the overall development of the industry. Wang Bohua, vice chairman and secretary-general of China Photovoltaic Industry Association, said that it is expected that the newly installed capacity will be 35-45GW in 2020, and the probability will fall in the 35-40GW range, which is lower than before. One reason is the recent supply chain price. rise.

According to public reports from the media, the heads of many power plant investment companies frequently “visit” photovoltaic companies mainly to ensure the supply of modules. Some companies have been forced to suspend the grid connection of some bidding projects. The author believes that the component price increase caused by the price increase of glass has exceeded 0.1 yuan/W, and the behavior of “losing money and earning praise” by component companies cannot last for a long time, and they will definitely find other ways to solve the problem. Therefore, the room for glass prices to continue to rise is very limited, but the supply for the whole year of next year is still in a tight state, and it is likely to remain at a higher price.

The huge gap in photovoltaic glass

According to the data provided by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as of the end of September 2020, there are 114 furnaces and 245 production lines for ultra-white rolled glass in the country with a production capacity of 32,580 tons/day, of which 48 are in production, with 164 production lines and a production capacity of 28,320 tons/day , The capacity utilization rate is 87%. my country’s photovoltaic glass production capacity accounts for about 90% of the global production capacity, and has become the world’s largest producer and exporter of photovoltaic glass. At present, the domestic photovoltaic glass production capacity is 24,750 tons/day under construction and planned, of which the capacity of 10,600 tons/day is ready to start production, mainly in Anhui and Guangxi.

Sobi Photovoltaic Network calculated that under the condition of a pass rate of 85%, the above-mentioned production capacity corresponds to 2.83 million square meters per day for 3.2mm photovoltaic glass, or 4.72 million square meters per day for 2.0mm photovoltaic glass. In theory, it can meet about 211GW orders in a year. Glass module or 176GW double glass module demand.

However, the gap in photovoltaic glass is obvious to all, and the supply in the fourth quarter of this year is particularly tight. After communicating with related companies, it was learned that, except for “glass shortage, the module gap in the fourth quarter exceeded 10GW! In addition to the reasons mentioned in the article, the domestic market demand is too concentrated and the component companies are expanding too quickly. According to data released by the National Energy Administration, the country’s new installed capacity in the fourth quarter of 2019 accounted for 46.9% of the entire year. It is expected that the country’s new installed capacity will account for a higher proportion in the fourth quarter of 2020, far exceeding the supply capacity of glass companies, and a gap is inevitable.

In addition, according to incomplete statistics from Soby Photovoltaic.com, the current expansion plan proposed by photovoltaic companies exceeds 272.7GW in the battery link and over 279GW in the module link, which is staggering. In the past 9 years, my country’s photovoltaic glass production capacity has grown at an average annual rate of more than 19%, which is basically the same as the global increase in installed capacity (21%). However, module companies have expanded their production at such a pace, and the glass sector has been unable to keep up anyway. of.

The countermeasures of the photovoltaic industry

After communicating with glass companies, the author summarized their three demands:

One is the standardization of product size, which is the common aspiration of all glass companies and even the entire photovoltaic industry.

Due to the differences in silicon wafer size, cell number, arrangement method, and cell spacing, photovoltaic module sizes vary greatly, which brings many challenges to glass and other auxiliary materials companies, design institutes, EPC companies, and operation and maintenance companies. Judging from the Shanghai SNEC exhibition this year, various component companies have launched more than 100 product sizes, leaving glass companies at a loss. “After photovoltaic glass is produced, it is either used or scrapped. Loss will be included in the production cost, and at the same time, production capacity will be wasted, making supply even more tight.”

In 2017, in the “Notice on Improving Technical Indicators of Major Photovoltaic Products and Strengthening Supervision Work” jointly issued by the National Energy Administration, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and the CNCA, the overall dimensions of the 60-cell and 72-cell photovoltaic modules were clarified. . However, as silicon wafers of different sizes enter the market, the original sizes are no longer applicable, and each company believes that their product solutions can bring the best kilowatt-hour cost, and they are not compatible with each other. Here, we call on the competent authorities and industry associations to release the reference values ​​of photovoltaic modules as soon as possible to improve the utilization rate of the photovoltaic supply chain, reduce losses, and promote the healthy and sustainable development of the industry.

Second, the downstream demand is reasonably dispersed.

In addition to bidding projects, the energy authority has also stipulated the grid connection time of affordable projects, and many places have clearly put forward penalties for failing to connect to the grid on time. The author believes that this is mainly to urge investment companies to promote project progress in a timely manner to ensure that the consumption space is fully utilized. But on the other hand, in order to avoid the problems caused by the concentration of downstream demand, after photovoltaics achieve parity on the grid, you can consider multiple batches of declarations each year and implement different grid connection deadlines. The advantage of this is that enterprises can have more autonomy to construct when the system cost is the lowest, and the quality and efficiency of the system are more guaranteed. Grid companies do not have to work overtime when 630 and 1231 are coming.

The third is the orderly release of control over technological and innovative products.

The person in charge of a glass company made it clear that, according to the current situation, if the glass production capacity control is fully liberalized, a large amount of capital will flow into this field, which will quickly cause overcapacity and impact the development of the industry. This obviously violates the original intention of the capacity replacement policy. . He emphasized that even if the competent authority relaxes the control of photovoltaic glass production, it must be carried out in an orderly manner, conditionally allowing the expansion of the advantageous products of a small number of technologically advanced enterprises, so as to avoid swarms and disrupt the market.

In addition, the author believes that glass companies should actively embrace market competition. There is not only competition within glass companies, but also competition from similar products such as transparent backplanes. According to statistics from relevant experts, in 2019, the market share of bifacial modules was approximately 14%, while the market share of double-glass modules was approximately 12%. That is to say, transparent backplane products accounted for 2% of the market. It is estimated that in 2020, the market share of transparent backplanes will reach 7%, and may reach 22% by 2025. If glass companies are satisfied with the current high profits, it is likely to force downstream to choose other technological routes. Only with sufficient market competition can enterprises be full of vitality, innovate continuously, and continue to strive for the achievement of the peak carbon emissions in 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2060.