Why the price of home solar panels is dropping fast in France

Many Chinese-made panels are being sold at little more than half price of a year ago

A view of solar panels on red tiles on a home
China sells 80% of solar panels worldwide
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Now could be a good time to install solar panels on your house in France, as the price has almost halved in the past 12 months - in contrast to electricity prices which are continuing to rise.

The cost of solar panels (panneaux photovoltaïques in French) and their installation has dropped significantly in the past year, mainly due to a major industrial and commercial campaign by Chinese manufacturers.

“We are seeing an unprecedented drop in the price of panels,” said Marie Juyaux, CEO of Oscaro Power, a company that sells DIY solar panel installation kits. She told Le Figaro: “One solar panel that was being sold at €210 last year is now being listed at €99.”

Installation costs have also dropped, with prices having dropped by 25% (measured by euro per watt) since January this year.

Why have prices dropped so much?

Wholesalers in China have built up a stock of 200 million solar panels - with an equivalent potential energy output of 20 nuclear power stations - that are now starting to be sold on the European market, pushing prices down.

It comes after Chinese manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand for solar panels in Europe in 2022, which partly came in response to rising energy costs. They then ramped up manufacturing in 2023 to meet this demand.

And, with the US market closed to Chinese solar panel imports due to the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Indian market also closed to the products, the EU has become the main market for the stock.

Now, the excess needs to be sold, causing Chinese manufacturers to offer solar panels up to half price compared to normal, said Ms Juyaux at Oscaro.

“China is still the leading producer,” said Thierry Hourquet, chairman of Axdis, a solar panel distributor in Seine-Saint-Denis, to TF1. “So it sets the pace of decline or increase.”

China sells 80% of panels worldwide.

Threat to French and EU companies?

Yet, some in France have said that the influx of Chinese products into the EU could threaten companies closer to home.

Jérôme Mouterde, co-founder and chairman of French manufacturer DualSun in Marseille, said that he has been forced to discount his products by as much as 40% to keep pace, and fears European companies will risk bankruptcy.

"It is something we have been experiencing for six months now, and it is really endangering all solar panel manufacturers in France and in Europe more generally,” he told TF1.

He has also been forced to diversify his offer to compete, including selling products that China does not typically sell, such as a hybrid panel that can also heat water.

How does France compare on solar to other EU countries?

In comparison to other countries, “the French solar market is lagging behind,” said Andreas Thorsheim, CEO and founder of Otovo, which is an online service that helps people find reputable local panel installation specialists.

Only around 1 in 50 houses in France has solar panels, in comparison to one in four in the Netherlands, he said.

“There is still a great deal of progress to be made in improving the…last mile between the warehouses where powerful, inexpensive panels are currently being stored, and the place where they can be installed,” said Mr Thorsheim.

France is a “very promising” market, he said, due to its “large number of single-family homes and abundant sunshine”.

He added that around 10 million people in the country could benefit from installing solar panels on their home’s roof, and that “every day, the price is going down, making it even better value”.

The upfront cost of installing solar panels means that it takes around a decade to see a return on your investment (and to save money in comparison to paying for grid energy). However, installing the panels means that the property is more eco-friendly and less vulnerable to energy price rises.

A DIY kit can cost a few thousand euros, while a larger solar panel system with installation by professionals can run to €15,000 or more.

Mr Thorseim said that he believes that France could go further to help homeowners with the cost of installation, as the country still levies VAT for small installations. This is in contrast to the UK, Germany, Netherlands, and Austria, which abolish it for systems of less than 3 kWp.

France does offer some aid for the installation of solar panels, but consumers are also warned to be alert to a growing number of scams in the sector.

Read more: What aid is available to install home solar panels in France in 2023?
Read more: Rise in solar panel scams in France and how to spot the tricks

Similarly, he said that getting approval for installations is still too slow in France.

"It takes four weeks from the signing of the contract to the connection being finished in Norway or the Netherlands,” he said. “But it takes four weeks just to get permission for the installation from Mairies in France.”

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