The Renewables MMI is still firmly stuck in its low trading range and this month it was even steadier than usual, recording a 52, the identical score it recorded in February.
Demand for solar silicon for panels, electric magnets for wind turbines and electrical steel for all of them is still growing but, as we’ve noted before, extended government incentives continue to distort prices in the US.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Globally, the picture is no clearer for home-based solar electricity generation. Foxconn Technology Group bought a a majority stake in Sharp Corp. last month and that very much throws into doubt the fate of the Japanese electronics maker’s solar operations, a business that once made the Osaka-based company the world’s largest seller of solar cells.
Foxconn is the much-maligned electronics supply chain partner of Apple, Inc. Sharp was a pioneer in solar 60 years ago but — after years of taking on excessive debt — the energy-solutions business, which includes solar products, posted a loss of $45 million (5 billion yen) in the three months ended Dec. 31. The company projects a loss of 7 billion yen for the fiscal year ending March 31 for the segment, according to a Feb. 4 filing.
Foxconn’s electronics focus puts the future of Sharp’s solar panel business very much in doubt. Of course, there are still plenty of silicon photovoltaic panel manufacturers out there — SolarWorld in Germany and First Solar here in the US come to mind — but losing such a pioneer is a big blow to an industry that, despite strong adoption, is still struggling with low prices.
We also saw Allegheny Technologies, Inc. idle its grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES) operations recently and, although ATI did settle its long-running labor dispute with the United Steelworkers, there is still no word on when or if that Pittsburgh-based specialty steel producer will restart its GOES lines.
Actual Renewables Prices
Korean steel plate fell to $331.14 a metric ton this month from $339.21 per mt in February, a drop of 2.37%. US GOES fell to $2,474 per mt from $2,588 per mt the month before, a decrease of 4.4%.