China casts long shadow over solar off-grid startups

Investment has poured into the off-grid solar sector, which offers safe alternatives to kerosene lamps in emerging markets. However a rising flood of Chinese suppliers is crushing margins. Sharper analysis is needed to separate winners from losers.

The solar industry hit the headlines after US President Donald Trump slapped tariffs of up to 30% on imports of solar cells and panels on January 22, a move aimed at China which makes 60% of the world’s solar cells and 71% of solar modules, according to a release by the US Trade Representative Office.

Rising competition from Chinese suppliers in recent years has also coincided with a surge of investment in solar companies, driven in part by growing concern over the impact of fossil fuels on the environment. About $20 billion was invested in sustainable energy during 2014, according to the United Nations.

Take for example...

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