Exports of solar products from China in January 2020 were around 35% lower than in the prior year period, according to an accumulation of official export data, recently released.
Solar components shipped overseas from China typically include a number of products such as PV modules, inverters, junction boxes and aluminum frames.
Solar component exports totaled around 4.45GW in January 2020, up slightly from around 4.41GW in December 2019. However, exports in January 2019 were just over 6GW, indicating a 35% decline year-on-year.
Factors at play in the decline in shipments this January include market shifts, seasonality issues and a relatively early Chinese New Year, not simply a consequence of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, which is a major industrial centre that includes a number of leading PV manufacturers.
But the significant decline in Chinese solar shipments in January looks ominous for exports in February. The extended Chinese New Year, due to COVID-19 and further restrictions to manufacturing re-starts, notably in Hubei province and the general supply chain disruptions across parts of China have already led to component shortages within China and have quickly surfaced in other PV manufacturing countries such as South Korea.
Official figures from China at the time of reporting show that COVID-19 has killed 2,715 people, with 78,000 having caught the virus in China. While the epicenter of COVID-19 in Hubei province continues to report deaths, levels have apparently dropped to their lowest to three weeks ago.
The majority of PV manufacturers with operations in Hubei province have donated to various charities in support of medical efforts, especially in Wuhan City, since the outbreak. However, no public updates on the manufacturing operational impact from COVID-19 have been noted from these companies. There could be specific restrictions in place that have prevented companies from making such announcements.