SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
REGISTRATION STATEMENT PURSUANT TO SECTION 12(b) OR 12(g) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
SHELL COMPANY REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
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Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
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Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
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If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
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If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes
(APPLICABLE ONLY TO ISSUERS INVOLVED IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS DURING THE PAST FIVE YEARS)
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed all documents and reports required to be filed by Sections 12, 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 subsequent to the distribution of securities under a plan confirmed by a court. Yes ☐ No ☐
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Table of Contents
Unless otherwise indicated, references in this annual report on Form 20-F to:
|●||“AC” and “DC” refer to alternating current and direct current, respectively;|
|●||“AUD” and “Australian dollars” refer to the legal currency of Australia;|
|●||“BRL” and “Brazilian reals” refer to the legal currency of Brazil;|
|●||“China” and the “PRC” refer to the People’s Republic of China, excluding, for the purposes of this annual report on Form 20-F, Taiwan and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau;|
|●||“COD” refers to commercial operation date;|
|●||“CSI”, “we”, “us”, “our company” and “our” refer to Canadian Solar Inc., a British Columbia, Canada corporation, its predecessor entities and its consolidated subsidiaries;|
|●||“CSI Solar” refers to CSI Solar Co., Ltd.;|
|●||“C$” and “Canadian dollars” refer to the legal currency of Canada;|
|●||“EPC” refers to engineering, procurement and construction;|
|●||“EU” refers to the European Union;|
|●||“FIT” refers to feed-in tariff;|
|●||“GAAP” refers to generally accepted accounting principles;|
|●||“Korea” refer to the Republic of Korea, also commonly known as “South Korea”;|
|●||“O&M services” refers to operation and maintenance services;|
|●||“PPA” refers to power purchase agreement;|
|●||“PV” refers to photovoltaic. The photovoltaic effect is a process by which sunlight is converted into electricity;|
|●||“RMB” and “Renminbi” refer to the legal currency of China;|
|●||“U.S.” refers to the United States of America;|
|●||“SEC” refers to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission;|
|●||“shares” and “common shares” refer to common shares, with no par value, of Canadian Solar Inc.;|
|●||“THB” and “Thai baht” refer to the legal currency of Thailand;|
|●||“U.K.” refers to the United Kingdom;|
|●||“W”, “kW”, “MW” and “GW” refer to watts, kilowatts, megawatts and gigawatts, respectively;|
|●||“ZAR” and “South African rand” refer to the legal currency of South Africa.|
|●||“$”, “US$” and “U.S. dollars” refer to the legal currency of U.S.;|
|●||“€” and “Euros” refer to the legal currency of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union;|
|●||“£”, “GBP” and “British pounds” refer to the legal currency of the United Kingdom;|
|●||“¥”, “JPY” and “Japanese yen” refer to the legal currency of Japan; and|
This annual report on Form 20-F includes our audited consolidated financial statements for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021 and as of December 31, 2020 and 2021.
We use the noon buying rate in The City of New York for cable transfers in Renminbi, Euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Thai baht, Brazilian reals and South African rand per U.S. dollars as certified for customs purposes by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to translate Renminbi, Euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Thai baht, Brazilian reals and South African rand to U.S. dollars not otherwise recorded in our consolidated financial statements and included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 20-F. Unless otherwise stated, the translation of Renminbi, Euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Thai baht, Brazilian reals and South African rand into U.S. dollars was made by the noon buying rate in effect on December 30, 2021, which was RMB6.3726 to $1.00, €0.8835 to $1.00, £0.7407 to $1.00, ¥115.1700 to $1.00, C$1.2777 to $1.00, AUD1.3774 to $1.00, THB33.3300 to $1.00, BRL5.5749 to $1.00 and ZAR15.9300 to $1.00. We make no representation that the Renminbi, Euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Thai baht, Brazilian reals, South African rand or U.S. dollars amounts referred to in this annual report on Form 20-F could have been or could be converted into U.S. dollars, Euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Thai baht, Brazilian reals South African rand or Renminbi, as the case may be, at any particular rate or at all. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Company and Our Industry—Fluctuations in exchange rates could adversely affect our business, including our financial condition and results of operations.”
This annual report on Form 20-F contains forward-looking statements that relate to future events, including our future operating results, our prospects and our future financial performance and condition, results of operations, business strategy and financial needs, all of which are largely based on our current expectations and projections. These forward-looking statements are made under the “safe harbor” provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. You can identify these statements by terminology such as “may,” “will,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “future,” “intend,” “plan,” “believe,” “estimate,” “is/are likely to” or similar expressions. Forward-looking statements involve inherent risks and uncertainties. These forward-looking statements include, among other things, statements relating to:
|●||our expectations regarding the worldwide demand for electricity and the market for solar power;|
|●||our beliefs regarding the importance of environmentally friendly power generation;|
|●||our beliefs regarding the value of and ability to monetize our portfolio of solar and battery storage projects;|
|●||our expectations regarding governmental support for solar power;|
|●||our beliefs regarding the rate at which solar power technologies will be adopted and the continued growth of the solar power industry;|
|●||our beliefs regarding the competitiveness of our solar power and battery storage products and services;|
|●||our expectations with respect to increased revenue growth and improved profitability;|
|●||our expectations regarding the benefits to be derived from our supply chain management and vertical integration manufacturing strategy;|
|●||our ability to continue developing our in-house solar component production capability and our expectations regarding the timing of the expansion of our internal production capacity;|
|●||our ability to secure adequate volumes of silicon, solar wafers and cells at competitive cost to support our solar module production;|
|●||our beliefs regarding the effects of environmental regulation;|
|●||our future business development, results of operations and financial condition;|
|●||competition from other manufacturers of solar or battery storage products and conventional energy suppliers;|
|●||our ability to successfully expand our range of products and services and to successfully execute plans for our energy business;|
|●||our ability to develop, build and sell solar and battery storage projects in Canada, the U.S., Japan, China, the EU, U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Australia, Korea and elsewhere; and|
|●||our beliefs with respect to the outcome of the investigations and litigation to which we are a party.|
Known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors may cause our actual results, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by forward-looking statements. See “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” for a discussion of some of the risk factors that may affect our business and results of operations. These risks are not exhaustive. Other sections of this annual report may include additional factors that could adversely influence our business and financial performance. Moreover, because we operate in an emerging and evolving industry, new risk factors may emerge from time to time. We cannot predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all or any of these factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in any forward-looking statement. We do not undertake any obligation to update or revise the forward-looking statements except as required under applicable law.
ITEM 1 IDENTITY OF DIRECTORS, SENIOR MANAGEMENT AND ADVISERS
ITEM 2 OFFER STATISTICS AND EXPECTED TIMETABLE
ITEM 3 KEY INFORMATION
B Capitalization and Indebtedness
C Reasons for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
D Risk Factors
Risks Related to Our Company and Our Industry
We may be adversely affected by volatile solar power market and industry conditions; in particular, the demand for our solar power and battery storage products and services may decline, which may reduce our revenues and earnings.
Our business is affected by conditions in the solar power market and industry. We believe that the solar power market and industry may from time to time experience oversupply. When this occurs, many solar power project developers, solar system installers and solar power product distributors that purchase solar power products, including solar modules from manufacturers like us, may be adversely affected. Our shipments of solar modules increased in 2020 compared to 2019, and further increased in 2021. The average selling prices for our solar modules declined from the previous year in each of 2019 and 2020 but increased in 2021. If the supply of solar modules grows faster than demand and if governments continue to reduce financial support for the solar industry and impose trade barriers for solar power products, demand and the average selling price for our products could be materially and adversely affected.
The solar power market is still at a relatively early stage of development, and future demand for solar power products and services is uncertain. Market data for the solar power industry is not as readily available as for more established industries, where trends are more reliably assessed from data gathered over a longer period of time. In addition, demand for solar power products and services in our largest end markets, including the U.S., Europe, Japan, China and Brazil, may not develop or may develop to a lesser extent than we anticipate. Many factors may affect the viability of solar power technology and the demand for solar power products, including:
|●||the cost-effectiveness, performance and reliability of solar power products and services, including our solar and battery storage projects, compared to conventional and other renewable energy sources and products and services;|
|●||the availability of government incentives to support the development of the solar power industry;|
|●||the availability and cost of capital, including long-term debt and tax equity, for solar and battery storage projects;|
|●||the success of other alternative energy technologies, such as wind power, hydroelectric power, clean hydrogen, geothermal power and biomass fuel;|
|●||fluctuations in economic and market conditions that affect the viability of conventional and other renewable energy sources, such as increases or decreases in the prices of oil, gas and other fossil fuels;|
|●||capital expenditures by end users of solar power and battery storage products and services, which tend to decrease when the economy slows; and|
|●||the availability of favorable regulation for solar power within the electric power industry and the broader energy industry.|
If solar power and battery storage technology is not suitable for widespread adoption or if sufficient demand for solar power and battery storage products and services does not develop or takes longer to develop than we anticipate, our revenues may suffer and we may be unable to sustain our profitability.
The operating results of our project development business within Global Energy segment and the mix of revenues from our CSI Solar and Global Energy segments may be subject to significant fluctuation due to a number of factors, including the unpredictability of the timing of the development and sale of our solar and battery storage projects and our inability to find third party buyers for our projects in a timely manner, on favorable terms and conditions, or at all.
Our Global Energy segment develops, sells and/or operates and maintains solar and battery storage projects primarily in the U.S., Brazil, Chile, the U.K., the EU, Japan, China, and Australia. Our project development activities have grown over the past several years through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions. After completing their development, we either sell our solar or battery storage projects to third party buyers, or operate them under PPAs or other contractual arrangements with utility companies or grid operators. Revenues from our Global Energy segment increased by $7.5 million, or 1%, to $726.2 million for the year ended December 31, 2020, and then further increased by $397.9 million, or 55%, to $1,124.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2021. We intend to monetize the majority of our current portfolio of solar and battery storage projects in operation with an estimated resale value of approximately $260.0 million as of January 31, 2022. We also intend to monetize certain of our projects before they reach COD. However, there is no assurance whether or when we will be able to realize their estimated resale value.
The operating results of our energy business may be subject to significant period-over-period fluctuations for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the unpredictability of the timing of the development and sale of our solar and battery storage projects, changes in market conditions after we have committed to projects, availability of financing for our projects and changes in government regulations and policies, all of which may result in the cancellation of or delays in the development of projects, inability to monetize or delays in monetizing projects or changes in amounts realized on monetization of projects. If a project is canceled, abandoned or deemed unlikely to occur, we will charge all prior capital costs as an operating expense in the quarter in which such determination is made, which could materially adversely affect operating results.
Further, the mix of revenues from our CSI Solar and Global Energy segments can fluctuate dramatically from quarter to quarter, which may adversely affect our margins and financial results in any given period.
Any of the foregoing may cause us to miss our financial guidance for a given period, which could adversely impact the market price for our common stock and our liquidity.
The execution of our growth strategy depends upon the continued availability of third-party financing arrangements for our customers, which is affected by general economic conditions. Tight credit markets could depress demand or prices for solar power and battery storage products and services, hamper our expansion and materially affect our results of operations.
Most solar and battery storage projects, including our own, require financing for development and construction with a mixture of equity and third-party funding. The cost of capital affects both the demand and price of solar power and battery storage systems. A high cost of capital may materially reduce the internal rate of return for solar and battery storage projects and therefore put downward pressure on the prices of solar systems, solar modules and battery storage systems, which typically comprise a major part of the cost of solar and battery storage projects.
Furthermore, solar and battery storage projects compete for capital with other forms of fixed income investments such as government and corporate bonds. Some classes of investors compare the returns of solar and battery storage projects with bond yields and expect a similar or higher internal rate of return, adjusted for risk and liquidity. Higher interest rates could increase the cost of existing funding and present an obstacle for future funding that would otherwise spur the growth of the solar power and battery storage industry. In addition, higher bond yields could result in increased yield expectations for solar and battery storage projects, which would result in lower system prices. In the event that suitable funding is unavailable, our customers may be unable to pay for products they have agreed to purchase. It may also be difficult to collect payments from customers facing liquidity challenges due to either customer defaults or financial institution defaults on project loans. Constricted credit markets may impede our expansion plans and materially and adversely affect our results of operations. The cash flow of a solar power/battery storage project may be derived from government-funded or government-backed FITs. Consequently, the availability and cost of funding solar and battery storage projects is determined in part based on the perceived sovereign credit risk of the country where a particular project is located.
In light of the uncertainty in the global credit and lending environment, we cannot make assurances that financial institutions will continue to offer funding to solar and battery storage project developers at reasonable costs. An increase in interest rates or a decrease in funding of capital projects within the global financial market could make it difficult to fund solar power and battery storage systems and potentially reduce the demand for solar modules and battery storage systems and/or reduce the average selling prices for solar modules and battery storage systems, which may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects.
Our future success depends partly on our ability to expand the pipeline of our energy business in several key markets, which exposes us to a number of risks and uncertainties.
Historically, our sales of modules, solar system kits, and other services have accounted for the majority of our net revenues. We have, in recent years, increased our investment in our energy business, which primarily consists of solar and battery storage project development and sale, operating solar and battery storage projects and sale of electricity.
While we plan to continue to monetize our current portfolio of solar and battery storage projects in operation, we also intend to grow our energy business by developing and selling or operating more solar and battery storage projects, including those that we develop and those that we acquire from third parties. As we do, we will be increasingly exposed to the risks associated with these activities. Further, our future success largely depends on our ability to expand our solar and battery storage project pipeline. The risks and uncertainties associated with our energy business, and our ability to expand our solar and battery storage project pipeline, include:
|●||the uncertainty of being able to sell the projects, receive full payment for them upon completion, or receive payment in a timely manner;|
|●||the need to raise significant additional funds to develop greenfield or purchase late stage solar and battery storage projects, which we may be unable to obtain on commercially reasonable terms or at all;|
|●||delays and cost overruns as a result of a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including construction and procurement price inflation, delays in regulatory approvals, grid connection, supply chain of our suppliers or availability of components, construction and installation, and customer acceptance testing;|
|●||delays or denial of required regulatory approvals by relevant government authorities, as a result of, among others, poor management of permitting process, including lack or resources and opaqueness of administrative measures;|
|●||diversion of significant management attention and other resources; and|
|●||failure to execute our project pipeline expansion plan effectively.|
If we are unable to successfully expand our energy business, and, in particular, our solar and battery storage project pipeline, we may be unable to expand our business, maintain our competitive position, improve our profitability and generate cash flows.
Governments may revise, reduce or eliminate incentives and policy support schemes for solar and battery storage power, which could cause demand for our products to decline.
Historically, the market for on-grid applications, where solar power supplements the electricity a customer purchases from the utility network or sells to a utility under a FIT, depends largely on the availability and size of government subsidy programs and economic incentives. Until recently, the cost of solar power exceeded retail electricity rates in many locations. Government incentives vary by geographic market. Governments in many countries provided incentives in the form of FITs, rebates, tax credits, renewable portfolio standards, auctions for Contracts for Difference (“CfDs”), Feed-in Premium (“FIP”) and other incentives. These governments implemented mandates to end-users, distributors, system integrators and manufacturers of solar power products to promote the use of solar energy in on-grid applications and to reduce dependency on other forms of energy. However, these government mandates and economic incentives in many markets either have been or are scheduled to be reduced or eliminated altogether, and it is likely that eventually incentives for solar and alternative energy technologies will be phased out completely. Over the past few years, the cost of solar energy has declined, and the industry has become less dependent on government incentives. However, governments in some of our largest markets have expressed their intention to continue supporting various forms of “green” energies, including solar power, as part of broader policies towards the reduction of carbon emissions. The governments in many of our largest markets, including the United States and a number of the states of the European Union (including without limitation, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Poland) continue to provide incentives and policy support schemes for investments in solar power that will directly benefit the solar industry. As to the United States, federal legislation is being discussed that may provide additional support for solar and energy storage development (including the potential introduction of production tax credits for solar projects, investment tax credit for energy storage projects, and direct pay provisions), though the final outcome of these discussions is uncertain. As to Japan, new FIP scheme has been effectively implemented in April 2022. This new scheme ensures investment incentives for power producers by allowing them to receive premium based on the unit price in addition to the sales revenue from the transactions at the power exchange or through the power purchase agreements, and such premium is calculated by deducting reference price based on the market price from the base price. As to Europe, a number of European countries (notably, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Poland) continue to support realization of solar projects through incentive schemes and auctions, with additional limitations and regulations on agricultural land as compared to industrial and commercial zones, and the enactment of new laws in order to simplify the permitting process and enhance administrative resources to promote renewable energy sources. We believe that the near-term growth of the market partially depends on the availability and size of such government incentives.
While solar and battery storage projects may continue to offer attractive internal rates of return, it is unlikely that these rates will be as high as they were in the past. If internal rates of return fall below an acceptable rate for project investors, and governments continue to reduce or eliminate incentives for solar and battery storage power, this may cause a decrease in demand and considerable downward pressure on solar systems and therefore negatively impact both solar module prices and the value of our solar and battery storage projects. The reduction, modification or elimination of government incentives in one or more of our markets could therefore materially and adversely affect the growth of such markets or result in increased price competition, either of which could cause our revenues to decline and harm our financial results.
Imposition of antidumping and countervailing duty orders or safeguard measures in one or more markets may result in additional costs to our customers, which could materially or adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial conditions and future prospects.
We have been, and may be in the future, subject to the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duty orders or safeguard measures in one or more of the markets in which we sell our products. In the past, we were subject to the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duty orders and safeguard measures in the U.S., the EU, and Canada and have, as a result, been party to lengthy proceedings related thereto. See “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal and Administrative Proceedings.” The U.S., the EU, the U.K. and Canada are important markets for us. Ongoing proceedings relating to past, and the imposition of any new, antidumping and countervailing duty orders or safeguard measures in these markets may result in additional costs to us and/or our customers, which may materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial conditions and future prospects.
General global economic conditions may have an adverse impact on our operating performance and results of operations.
The demand for solar and battery storage products and services is influenced by macroeconomic factors, such as global economic conditions (e.g. interest rates, foreign exchange rates and inflation), demand for electricity, supply and prices of other energy products, such as oil, coal and natural gas, as well as government regulations and policies concerning the electric utility industry, clean and other alternative energy industries and the environment. As a result of global economic conditions, some governments may implement measures that reduce the FITs and other incentives designed to benefit the solar industry. A decrease in solar power tariffs or wholesale electricity in many markets placed downward pressure on the price of solar and battery storage systems in those and other markets. In addition, reductions in oil and coal prices may reduce the demand for and the prices of solar power and battery storage products and services. Our growth and profitability depend on the demand for and the prices of solar power products and services. If we experience negative market and industry conditions and demand for solar and battery storage projects and solar power and battery storage products and services weakens as a result, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected.
Our project development and construction activities may not be successful, projects under development may not receive required permits, property rights, EPC agreements, interconnection and transmission arrangements, and financing or construction of projects may not commence or continue as scheduled, all of which could increase our costs, delay or cancel a project, and have a material adverse effect on our revenue and profitability.
The development and construction of solar and battery storage projects involve known and unknown risks, many of which are not under our sole control. For example, we may be required to invest significant amounts of money for land and interconnection rights, preliminary engineering and permitting and may incur legal and other expenses before we can determine whether a project is feasible; we may also need to engage and rely on third parties including, but not limited to, contractors and consultants. Success in developing a particular project is contingent upon, among other things:
|●||securing land rights and related permits, including satisfactory environmental assessments;|
|●||receipt of required land use and construction permits and approvals;|
|●||receipt of rights to interconnect to the electric grid;|
|●||availability of transmission capacity, potential upgrade costs to the transmission grid and other system constraints;|
|●||payment of interconnection and other deposits (some of which are non-refundable);|
|●||negotiation of satisfactory EPC agreements;|
|●||obtaining construction financing, including debt, equity and tax credits; and|
|●||timely and satisfactory execution and performance by the third parties that we engage.|
In addition, successful completion of a particular project may be adversely affected by numerous factors, including:
|●||changes in laws, regulations and policies and shifts in trade barriers and remedies, especially tariffs;|
|●||delays in obtaining and maintaining required governmental permits and approvals;|
|●||potential challenges from local residents, environmental organizations, and others who may not support the project;|
|●||unforeseen engineering problems; subsurface land conditions; construction delays; cost over-runs; labor, equipment and materials supply shortages or disruptions (including labor strikes);|
|●||failure to enter into PPAs on terms favorable to us, or at all;|
|●||additional complexities when conducting project development or construction activities in foreign jurisdictions, including compliance with applicable U.S. or local laws and customs; and|
|●||force majeure events, including adverse weather conditions, pandemics, supply chain disruptions, hostilities and other events beyond our control.|
If we are unable to complete the development of a solar and battery storage project or we fail to meet any agreed upon system level capacity or energy output guarantees or warranties (including our 25 or 30 year module power output performance guarantees) or other contract terms, or our projects cause grid interference or other damage, the EPC, the PPA or other agreements related to the project may, depending on the specific terms of the agreements, be terminated and/or we may be subject to significant damages, penalties and other obligations relating to the project, including obligations to repair, replace or supplement materials for the project.
We may enter into fixed-price EPC agreements in which we act as the general contractor for our customers in connection with the installation of their solar power and battery storage systems. All essential costs are estimated at the time of entering into the EPC agreement for a particular project, and these costs are reflected in the overall fixed price that we charge our customers for the project. These cost estimates are preliminary and may or may not be covered by contracts between us and the subcontractors, suppliers and other parties involved in the project. In addition, we require qualified, licensed subcontractors to install most of our solar power and battery storage systems. Shortages of components (which may be attributable to the shortage of raw materials or components) or skilled labor could significantly delay a project or otherwise increase our costs. Should miscalculations in planning a project occur, including those due to unexpected increases in commodity prices or labor costs, or delays in execution occur and we are unable to increase the EPC sales price commensurately, we may not achieve our expected margins or our results of operations may be adversely affected.
Developing and operating solar and battery storage projects exposes us to risks different from those related to producing solar modules.
The development of solar and battery storage projects can take many months or years to complete and may be delayed for reasons beyond our control. It often requires us to make significant up-front payments for, among other things, land rights, interconnection work and permitting in advance of commencing construction, and revenue from these projects may not be recognized for several additional months following contract signing. Any inability or significant delays in entering into sales contracts with customers after making such up-front payments could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Furthermore, we may become constrained in our ability to simultaneously fund our other business operations and invest in other projects.
In contrast to producing solar modules, developing solar and battery storage projects requires more management attention to negotiate the terms of our engagement and monitor the progress of the projects which may divert management’s attention from other matters. Our revenue and liquidity may be adversely affected to the extent the market for solar and battery storage projects weakens or we are not able to successfully complete the customer acceptance testing due to technical difficulties, equipment failure, or adverse weather, and we are unable to sell our solar and battery storage projects at prices and on terms and timing that are acceptable to us.
Our energy business also includes operating solar and battery storage projects and selling electricity to the local or national grid or other power purchasers. As a result, we are subject to a variety of risks associated with intense market competition, changing regulations and policies, insufficient demand for solar or battery storage, technological advancements and the failure of our power generation facilities.
In order to facilitate greater opportunities in solar projects, we have established Japan Green Infrastructure Fund (“JGIF”) in 2020 by partnering with a business unit of Macquarie Group, who holds a minority interest in JGIF. JGIF has secured JPY22 billion ($213.2 million) of committed capital that will be used to develop, build and accumulate new solar projects in Japan. We have further established CSFS Fund I, a new closed-ended alternative investment fund of a similar nature to Canadian Solar Infrastructure Fund, Inc. (“CSIF”), in Italy and we intend to contribute new projects in 2022 and market to third party investors. By creating these and similar funds, we are subject to a variety of risks and regulations that substantially differ from the risks the rest of our businesses are subject to, such as the risk that the funds may not be deployed successfully, may experience investor withdrawal or liquidation with limited notice or penalty, or may not generate a sufficient rate of return to satisfy fund investors. If we are unable to consistently deliver quality returns, it may impact our ability to attract capital and continue holding the assets acquired by the funds. We may also suffer reputational damage if our funds do not perform in-line with investor expectations.
We face a number of risks involving PPAs and project-level financing arrangements, including failure or delay in entering into PPAs, defaults by counterparties and contingent contractual terms such as price adjustment, termination, buy-out, acceleration and other clauses, all of which could materially and adversely affect our energy business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We may not be able to enter into PPAs for our solar and battery storage projects due to intense competition, increased supply of electricity from other sources, reduction in wholesale electricity prices, changes in government policies or other factors. There is a limited pool of potential buyers for electricity generated by our solar power plants since the transmission and distribution of electricity is either monopolized or highly concentrated in most jurisdictions. The willingness of buyers to purchase electricity from an independent power producer may be based on a number of factors and not solely on pricing and surety of supply. Failure to enter into PPAs on terms favorable to us, or at all, would negatively impact our revenue and our decisions regarding the development of additional power plants. We may experience delays in entering into PPAs for some of our solar and battery storage projects or may not be able to replace an expiring PPA with a contract on equivalent terms and conditions, or otherwise at prices that permit operation of the related facility on a profitable basis. Any delay in entering into PPAs may adversely affect our ability to finance project construction and to enjoy the cash flows generated by such projects. If we are unable to replace an expiring PPA with an acceptable new PPA, the affected site may temporarily or permanently cease operations, or could be exposed to more uncertain merchant or wholesale electricity pricing, which could materially and adversely affect our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
Substantially all of the electric power generated by our solar and battery storage projects will be sold under long-term PPAs with public utilities, licensed suppliers, corporate offtakers, and commercial, industrial or government end users. Despite possible future alternatives, we expect a substantial number of our future projects to also have long-term PPAs or similar offtake arrangements such as FIT programs. If, for any reason, any of the purchasers of power under these contracts are unable or unwilling to fulfill their related contractual obligations, they refuse to accept delivery of the power delivered thereunder or they otherwise terminate them prior to their expiration, our assets, liabilities, business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows could be materially and adversely affected. Further, to the extent any of our power purchasers are, or are controlled by, governmental entities, our facilities may be subject to legislative or other political action that may impair their contractual performance or contain contractual remedies that do not provide adequate compensation in the event of a counterparty default.
Some of our PPAs are subject to price adjustments over time. If the price under any of our PPAs is reduced below a level that makes a project economically viable, our financial conditions, cash flow and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected. Some inflation-based price adjustment is only done yearly and consequently may not allow us to pass on the additional costs in a timely manner, if at all. Further, some of our long-term PPAs do not include inflation-based price increases. Certain of the PPAs for our own projects and those for projects that we have acquired and may acquire in the future contain or may contain provisions that allow the offtake purchaser to terminate or buy out the project or require us to pay liquidated damages upon the occurrence of certain events. If these provisions are exercised, our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows could be materially and adversely affected. Additionally, certain of the project-level financing arrangements for projects allow, and certain of the projects that we may acquire in the future may allow, the lenders or investors to accelerate the repayment of the financing arrangement in the event that the related PPA is terminated or if certain operating thresholds or performance measures are not achieved within specified time periods. Certain of our PPAs and project-level financing arrangements include, and in the future may include, provisions that would permit the counterparty to terminate the contract or accelerate maturity in the event we own, directly or indirectly, less than 50% of the combined voting power or, in some cases, if we cease to be the majority owner, directly or indirectly, of the applicable project subsidiary. The termination of any of our PPAs or the acceleration of the maturity of any of our financing arrangements as a result of a change-in-control event could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
If the supply of solar wafers and cells increases in line with increases in the supply of polysilicon, then the corresponding oversupply of solar wafers, cells and modules may cause substantial downward pressure on the prices of our products and reduce our revenues and earnings.
Silicon production capacity has expanded rapidly in recent years. As a result of this expansion, coupled with the global economic downturn, the solar industry has experienced an oversupply of high-purity silicon since the beginning of 2009. This has contributed to an oversupply of solar wafers, cells and modules and resulted in substantial downward pressure on prices throughout the value chain. The average selling price of our solar modules decreased from $0.40 per watt in 2017 to $0.34 per watt in 2018, $0.29 per watt in 2019, $0.25 per watt in 2020, and increased to $0.28 per watt in 2021. Although we believe that there is a relative balance between capacity and demand at low prices due to industry consolidation, increases in solar module production in excess of market demand may result in further downward pressure on the price of solar wafers, cells and modules, including our products. Increasing competition could also result in us losing sales or market share.
On the other hand, demand for solar products remains strong and may continue to increase, driven by various factors such as the efforts being made by major economies toward clean, renewable energy sources and decarbonization, which could result in increase in the costs of and difficulties in sourcing raw materials to support the increased production levels due to capacity addition limitations. For example, the market prices of silicon materials, silicon wafers, and battery cells substantially rose by 150%, 60% and 10%, respectively, from January to September 2021, primarily due to supply tightness. Although our manufacturing operation in the third quarter of 2021 improved due to the stabilization of raw material prices, the market price of silicon-based materials rose sharply again in October 2021. As a result, we may not be able to keep up with fast growth in the demand for our solar products. Accordingly, due to fluctuations in the supply and price of solar power products throughout the value chain, we may not be able to, on an ongoing basis, procure silicon, wafers and cells at reasonable costs if any of the above risks materializes. If, on an ongoing basis, we are unable to procure silicon, solar wafers and solar cells at reasonable prices or mark up the price of our solar modules to cover our manufacturing and operating costs, our revenues and margins will be adversely impacted, either due to higher costs compared to our competitors or due to further write-downs of inventory, or both. In addition, our market share could decline if our competitors are able to price their products more competitively.
We are subject to numerous laws, regulations and policies at the national, regional and local levels of government in the markets where we do business. Any changes to these laws, regulations and policies may present technical, regulatory and economic barriers to the purchase and use of solar power and battery storage products, solar and battery storage projects and solar electricity, which may significantly reduce demand for our products and services or otherwise adversely affect our financial performance.
We are subject to a variety of laws and regulations in the markets where we do business, some of which may conflict with each other and all of which are subject to change. These laws and regulations include energy regulations, export and import restrictions, tax laws and regulations, environmental regulations, labor laws, supply chain laws and regulations and other government requirements, approvals, permits and licenses. We also face trade barriers and trade remedies such as export requirements, tariffs, taxes and other restrictions and expenses, including antidumping and countervailing duty orders, which could increase the prices of our products and make us less competitive in some countries. See “—Imposition of antidumping and countervailing duty orders or safeguard measures in one or more markets may result in additional costs to our customers, which could materially or adversely affect our business, results of operations, financial conditions and future prospects.”
In the countries where we do business, the market for solar power and battery storage products, solar and battery storage projects and solar electricity is heavily influenced by national, state and local government regulations and policies concerning the electric utility industry, as well as policies disseminated by electric utilities. These regulations and policies often relate to electricity pricing and technical interconnection of customer-owned electricity generation, and could deter further investment in the research and development of alternative energy sources as well as customer purchases of solar power and battery storage technology, which could result in a significant reduction in the potential demand for our solar power and battery storage products, solar and battery storage projects and solar electricity.
In our module and beyond-pure-module business (which includes sales of solar system kit, battery storage solutions, and other EPC, materials, components and services), we expect that our solar power and battery storage products and their installation will continue to be subject to national, state and local regulations and policies relating to safety, utility interconnection and metering, construction, environmental protection, and other related matters. Any new regulations or policies pertaining to our solar power and battery storage products may result in significant additional expenses to us, our resellers and customers, which could cause a significant reduction in demand for our solar power and battery storage products.
In our energy business, we are subject to numerous national, regional and local laws and regulations. Changes in applicable energy laws or regulations, or in the interpretations of these laws and regulations, could result in increased compliance costs or the need for additional capital expenditures. If we fail to comply with these requirements, we could also be subject to civil or criminal liability and the imposition of fines. Further, national, regional or local regulations and policies could be changed to provide for new rate programs that undermine the economic returns for both new and existing projects by charging additional, non-negotiable fixed or demand charges or other fees or reductions in the number of projects allowed under net metering policies. National, regional or local government energy policies, law and regulation supporting the creation of organized merchant or wholesale electricity markets are currently, and may continue to be, subject to challenges, modifications and restructuring proposals, which may result in limitations on the commercial strategies available to us for the sale of our power. For example, reforms to the energy regulatory regime (primarily regarding the power industry law), which are proposed by the Mexican government, consider restrictions to private firm participation in the energy sector and seek to give Mexico’s national power company, the Federal Electricity Commission (“CFE”), preferential status in energy dispatch over private firms. Clean energy proponents argue that such reforms would hinder free competition and unduly benefit the CFE, and they continue to file constitutional challenges, called amparos, against such reforms. The constitutional reform to the energy sector proposed by the ruling political party in Mexico continues to face significant opposition and it is expected that the administrative paralysis in the energy sector will continue to delay the granting of federal permits, licenses and approvals for on private power generators.
Regulatory changes in a jurisdiction where we are developing a solar and battery storage project may make the continued development of the project infeasible or economically disadvantageous and any expenditure that we have previously made on the project may be wholly or partially written off. Any of these changes could significantly increase the regulatory related compliance and other expenses incurred by the projects and could significantly reduce or entirely eliminate any potential revenues that can be generated by one or more of the projects or result in significant additional expenses to us, our offtakers and customers, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We also face regulatory risks imposed by various transmission providers and operators, including regional transmission operators and independent system operators, and their corresponding market rules. These regulations may contain provisions that limit access to the transmission grid or allocate scarce transmission capacity in a particular manner, which could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We are also subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, or the FCPA, the U.S. domestic bribery statute contained in 18 U.S.C. § 201, the U.S. Travel Act, the USA PATRIOT Act and other anti-corruption laws that prohibit companies and their employees and third-party intermediaries from authorizing, offering or providing, directly or indirectly, improper payments or benefits to foreign government officials, political parties and private-sector recipients for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business in countries in which we conduct activities. We may have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies or state-owned or affiliated entities in the course of our business (for example, to obtain approvals, permits and licenses from applicable government authorities and to sell power to government-owned entities). We would face significant liabilities if we failed to comply with these laws and we could be held liable for the illegal activities of our employees, representatives, contractors, partners, and agents, even if we did not authorize such activities. Any violation of the FCPA or other applicable anticorruption laws could also result in whistleblower complaints, adverse media coverage, investigations, loss of export privileges, severe criminal or civil sanctions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operation, cash flows and reputation. In addition, responding to any enforcement action may result in the diversion of management’s attention and resources, significant defense costs and other professional fees.
Because the markets in which we compete are highly competitive and evolving quickly, because many of our competitors have greater resources than we do or are more adaptive, and because we have a limited track record in our energy business, we may not be able to compete successfully and we may not be able to maintain or increase our market share.
In our module and beyond-pure-module business, we face intense competition from a large number of competitors, including non-China-based companies such as First Solar, Inc., or First Solar, and China-based companies such as LONGI Green Energy Technology Co. Ltd., or Longi, Trina Solar Limited, or Trina, JinkoSolar Holding Co., Limited, or Jinko, JA Solar Co., Limited, or JA Solar, and Hanwha Q Cells Co., Ltd., or Hanwha Q Cells. Some of our competitors are developing or are currently producing products based on new solar power and battery storage technologies that may ultimately have costs similar to or lower than our projected costs. These include products based on thin film PV technology, which requires either no silicon or significantly less silicon to produce than crystalline silicon solar modules, such as the ones that we produce, and is less susceptible to increases in silicon costs. To effectively compete, our products and production capacity are undergoing continuous transformation, which may risk missing monocrystalline module market opportunities and losing market share and in turn negatively affect our performance. For example, while crystalline silicon cell modules have become the market mainstream, our ongoing upgrade to N-type technology, which is focused on further improving the photoelectric conversion efficiency and reducing the manufacturing cost, is susceptible to various related risks. Our judgment of the development trend of technology and products may prove inaccurate, and we may fail to invest sufficiently in research and development in the technology with the most market potential. Consequently, we may be exposed to the risk of technological backwardness.
Furthermore, some of our competitors have longer operating histories, greater name and brand recognition, access to larger customer bases, greater resources and significantly greater economies of scale than we do. In addition, some of our competitors may have stronger relationships or may enter into exclusive relationships with some of the key distributors or system integrators to whom we sell our products. As a result, they may be able to respond more quickly to changing customer demands or devote greater resources to the development, promotion and sales of their products. Some of our competitors have more diversified product offerings, which may better position them to withstand a decline in demand for solar power and battery storage products. Some of our competitors are more vertically integrated than we are, from upstream silicon wafer manufacturing to solar power system integration. This may allow them to capture higher margins or have lower costs. In addition, new competitors or alliances among existing competitors could emerge and rapidly acquire significant market share. If we fail to compete successfully, our business will suffer and we may not be able to maintain or increase our market share.
In our energy business, we compete in a more diversified and complicated landscape since the commercial and regulatory environments for solar and battery storage project development and operation vary significantly from region to region and country to country. Our primary competitors are local and international developers and operators of solar and battery storage projects. Some of our competitors may have advantages over us in terms of greater experience or resources in the operation, capital, financing, technical support and management of solar and battery storage projects, in any particular markets or in general.
We have a global footprint and develop solar and battery storage projects primarily in Canada, the U.S., Japan, China, the EU, the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Australia and Korea. There is no guarantee that we can compete successfully in the markets in which we currently operate or the ones we plan to enter in the future. For example, in certain of our target markets, such as China, state-owned and private companies have emerged to take advantage of the significant market opportunity created by attractive financial incentives and favorable regulatory environment provided by the governments. State-owned companies may have stronger relationships with local governments in certain regions and private companies may be more focused and experienced in developing solar and battery storage projects in the markets where we compete. Accordingly, we need to continue to be able to compete against both state-owned and private companies in these markets.
We also provide battery storage and system solutions, EPC, O&M and asset management services, and face intense competition from other service providers in those markets.
Our business also includes electricity generation and sale, we believe that our primary competitors in the electricity generation markets in which we operate are the incumbent utilities that supply energy to our potential customers under highly regulated rate and tariff structures. We compete with these conventional utilities primarily based on price, predictability of price, reliability of delivery and the ease with which customers can switch to electricity generated by or discharged from our solar and battery storage power projects.
As the solar power and renewable energy industry grows and evolves, we will also face new competitors who are not currently in the market. Our failure to adapt to changing market conditions and to compete successfully with existing or new competitors will limit our growth and will have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects.
We face risks associated with the marketing, distribution and sale of our solar power and battery storage products and services internationally.
The international marketing, sale, distribution and delivery of our products and services expose us to a number of risks, including:
|●||fluctuating sources of revenues;|
|●||difficulties in staffing and managing overseas operations;|
|●||fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates;|
|●||differing regulatory and tax regimes across different markets;|
|●||the increased cost of understanding local markets and trends and developing and maintaining an effective marketing and distribution presence in various countries;|
|●||the difficulty of providing customer service and support in various countries;|
|●||the difficulty of managing our sales channels effectively as we expand beyond distributors to include direct sales to systems integrators, end users and installers;|
|●||the difficulty of managing the development, construction and sale of our solar and battery storage projects on a timely and profitable basis as a result of technical difficulties, commercial disputes with our customers and changes in regulations, among other factors;|
|●||the difficulties and costs of complying with the different commercial, legal and regulatory requirements in the overseas markets in which we operate;|
|●||any failure to develop appropriate risk management and internal control structures tailored to overseas operations;|
|●||any inability to obtain, maintain or enforce intellectual property rights;|
|●||any unanticipated changes in prevailing economic conditions and regulatory requirements; and|
|●||any trade barriers such as export requirements, tariffs, taxes and other restrictions and expenses, which could increase the prices of our products and make us less competitive in some countries.|
If we are unable to effectively manage these risks, our ability to expand our business abroad could suffer.
Our revenue sources have fluctuated significantly over recent years. For example, in 2008, 89.5% of our revenues were attributable to Europe, while only 4.6% and 5.9% were attributable to the Americas and to Asia and other regions, respectively. However, in 2019, Europe and other regions contributed 24.4% while the Americas contributed 43.8% and Asia contributed 31.8% of our revenues; in 2020, Europe and other regions contributed 18.3% while the Americas contributed 35.1% and Asia contributed 46.6% of our revenues; in 2021, Europe and other regions contributed 16.3% while the Americas contributed 43.2% and Asia contributed 40.5% of our revenues. As we shift the focus of our operations between different regions of the world, we have limited time to prepare for and address the risks identified above. Furthermore, some of these risks, such as currency fluctuations, will increase as our revenue contribution from certain global regions becomes more prominent. This may adversely influence our financial performance.
Our future business depends in part on our ability to make strategic acquisitions, investments and divestitures and to establish and maintain strategic relationships, and our failure to do so could have a material and adverse effect on our market penetration and revenue growth.
We frequently look for and evaluate opportunities to acquire other businesses, make strategic investments or establish strategic relationships with third parties to improve our market position or expand our products and services. When market conditions permit and opportunities arise, we may also consider divesting part of our current business to focus management attention and improve our operating efficiency. Investments, strategic acquisitions and relationships with third parties could subject us to a number of risks, including risks associated with integrating their personnel, operations, services, internal controls and financial reporting into our operations as well as the loss of control of operations that are material to our business. If we divest any material part of our business, particularly our upstream manufacturing business or downstream energy business through e.g. STAR Listing, we may not be able to benefit from our investment and experience associated with that part of the business and may be subject to intensified concentration risks with less flexibility to respond to market fluctuations. Moreover, it could be expensive to make strategic acquisitions, investments, divestitures and establish and maintain relationships, and we may be subject to the risk of non-performance by a counterparty, which may in turn lead to monetary losses that materially and adversely affect our business. Uncertainties with respect to the relatively new PRC regulations, including the Foreign Investment Law and the Implementation Rules of Foreign Investment Law, may also make it more difficult for us to pursue growth through acquisitions. See “-Uncertainties with respect to the Chinese legal system, as well as changes in any government policies, laws and regulations, could adversely affect the overall economy in China or our industry, which could harm our business.” We cannot assure you that we will be able to successfully make strategic acquisitions and investments and successfully integrate them into our operations, or make strategic divestitures or establish strategic relationships with third parties that will prove to be effective for our business. Our inability to do so could materially and adversely affect our market penetration, our revenue growth and our profitability.
Our significant international operations expose us to a number of risks, including unfavorable political, regulatory, labor and tax conditions in the countries where we operate.
We intend to continue to extend our global reach and capture market share in various global markets. In doing so, we will be exposed to various risks, including political, regulatory, labor and tax risks. Any government policies that are unfavorable towards international trade, such as capital controls or tariffs, may affect the demand for our products and services, impact our competitive position, or prevent us from expanding globally. If any new tariffs, legislation, or regulations are implemented, or if existing trade agreements are renegotiated, such changes could adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations. Many perceive globalization to be in retreat and protectionism on the rise, as evidenced by the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU and the decisions of the U.S. Government to, among other actions, impose Section 301 and other tariffs on goods imported from China and renegotiate certain trade arrangements. Tensions have continued to escalate in 2021, in areas ranging from trade, national security and national and regional politics and have resulted in contentious punitive or retaliatory measures being imposed on businesses and individuals. The tensions surrounding international trade and potential government sanctions could negatively affect the overall economic, political and social conditions in the countries where we operate, which could adversely affect our business.
In addition, despite our zero tolerance of forced labor, whether in our own manufacturing facilities and throughout our supply chain, we may be subject to risks related to forced labor allegations. We monitor our manufacturing facilities, maintain an equal opportunity policy, prohibit discrimination of any kind, and follow the employment laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which we operate. A set of challenges were imposed by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) in June 2021 through a Withhold Release Order (“WRO”) pursuant to Section 307 of the Tariff Act of 1930 on products whose upstream silica-based products (such as polysilicon) are sourced, or are suspected of being sourced, from Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries (“Hoshine”). On December 23, 2021, President Biden signed into law the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (the “UFLPA”), which creates forced labor-related import restrictions that, as of now, take effect on June 21, 2022 and apply more broadly than the WRO. Our solar modules imported into the U.S. contain polysilicon sourced from the Inner Mongolia and Henan provinces. Notwithstanding, there can be no assurance that we will not experience adverse consequences arising from the impact of these restrictions on our products and supply chain. If our products are seized, excluded or detained by the CBP due to the WRO or the UFLA, we will use our best effort to provide the requisite evidence to rebut the presumption of use of forced labor.
We cannot predict what additional actions the U.S. may adopt or what actions may be taken by other countries with regard to similar concerns. Our direct solar module sales to the U.S. market accounted for 14.8% and 15.5% of our total revenues in 2020 and 2021, respectively. If additional measures are imposed or other negotiated outcomes occur, our business, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
Sustained tensions between the United States and China, the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis and related sanctions, and other conflicts between Russia and Western countries could significantly undermine the stability of the global economy. These recent events have also caused significant volatility in global equity and debt capital markets, which could trigger a severe contraction of liquidity in the global credit markets. If tensions increase among countries, there may be a material adverse effect on our international operations. Furthermore, we may need to make substantial investments in our overseas operations in order to attain longer-term sustainable returns. These investments could negatively impact our financial performance before sustainable returns are achieved.
An anti-circumvention investigation and the extended safeguard measures in the United States could adversely affect us.
Our exports to the United States could be adversely impacted by (i) the possibility that the U.S. Department of Commerce (“USDOC”) could reach an affirmative determination in an anti-circumvention investigation of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (“CSPV”) cells and modules products from Thailand and/or Vietnam; and/or (ii) further changes to the U.S. Government’s extended safeguard measures currently in place against imports of CSPV cells and modules.
On August 16, 2021, a group of anonymous entities calling itself the American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention (“A-SMACC”) requested that the USDOC initiate an anti-circumvention inquiry regarding CSPV products from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. A-SMACC alleged that certain CSPV products from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam containing Chinese-origin components were circumventing the Solar 1 antidumping (“AD”) and countervailing duty (“CVD”) orders (i.e., CSPV solar cells manufactured in China). Canadian Solar entered an appearance in the Thailand and Vietnam segments of this proceeding and requested that the USDOC reject A-SMACC’s petition as deficient. On November 10, 2021, the USDOC rejected A-SMACC’s request and declined to initiate an anti-circumvention inquiry.
On February 8, 2022, U.S. module producer Auxin Solar Inc. (“Auxin”) filed with the USDOC separate circumvention petitions on CSPV products from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Canadian Solar entered these proceedings with respect to Thailand and Vietnam and requested that the USDOC reject Auxin’s petition. On April 1, 2022, the USDOC initiated anti-circumvention inquiries on a country-wide basis with respect to all four countries. We are defending our interests in these proceedings.
U.S. law provides that the USDOC may find that circumvention exists when (among other things) merchandise subject to an AD/CVD order is completed or assembled in third countries with the end result of AD/CVD duty avoidance. Specifically, with respect to the existing Solar 1 China AD/CVD orders, the USDOC may find that (i) certain CSPV cells and/or modules produced in Thailand and Vietnam fall within the scope of the AD/CVD orders; and (ii) the collection of AD and/or CVD deposits is appropriate to prevent evasion of AD/CVD duties. The USDOC’s investigation will examine, inter alia, whether (i) the production process in Thailand and Vietnam is “minor or insignificant”; and (ii) the value of the merchandise produced in China is a significant portion of the value of the product exported to the United States.
In light of the USDOC’s determination to initiate Auxin’s requested anti-circumvention investigations, AD/CVD deposits could be collected on U.S. imports entering the United States as of April 1, 2022 the publication of the USDOC’s initiation notice in the Federal Register, and potentially even earlier going back to November 4, 2021. Furthermore, with an affirmative finding by the USDOC, our imports from Thailand and Vietnam would essentially be treated as if they were of Chinese origin and subject to potentially very high AD/CVD deposit rates. We produce a significant portion of our products from facilities in Thailand and Vietnam. As such, the application of AD/CVD duties to our products produced in Thailand and Vietnam would adversely impact our ability to remain competitive in the U.S. market—one of our main markets—and risk significant harm to our financial condition and operations.
In addition, the U.S. Government extended the solar safeguard measure for four years until February 6, 2026. The extended solar safeguard measure applies to nearly all U.S. imports of CSPV cells and modules, including imports from Thailand and Vietnam. The extended safeguard measure doubles the volume of the TRQ on imported CSPV cells to 5.0 gigawatts and maintains a tariff on imports of CSPV modules and above-quota CSPV cells, beginning at a rate of 14.75% ad valorem and declining annually by 0.25 percentage points to 14.50% in the sixth year, 14.25% in the seventh year, and 14% in the eighth year. The extended safeguard measure could be subject to further revision and risk significant harm to our financial condition and operations.
We face risks related to private securities litigation.
Our company and certain of our directors and executive officers were named as defendants in class action lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada alleging that our financial disclosures during 2009 and early 2010 were false or misleading and in violation of U.S. federal securities laws and Ontario securities laws, respectively. The lawsuits in the U.S. were consolidated into one class action, which was dismissed with prejudice by the district court in March 2013. The dismissal was subsequently affirmed by the circuit court in December 2013. A settlement of the lawsuit in Canada was achieved and approved by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on October 30, 2020. The settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing by our company or any of the other defendants.
There is no guarantee that we will not become party to additional lawsuits. If we were involved in a class action suit, it could divert a significant amount of our management’s attention and other resources from our business and operations and require us to incur significant expenses to defend the suit. In addition, we are generally obligated, to the extent permitted by law, to indemnify our directors and officers who are named defendants in these lawsuits. If we were to lose a lawsuit, we may be required to pay judgments or settlements and incur expenses in aggregate amounts that could have a material and adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate from period to period.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate from period to period based on a number of factors, including:
|●||the average selling prices of our solar power and battery storage products and services;|
|●||the timing of completion of construction of our solar and battery storage projects;|
|●||the timing and pricing of project sales;|
|●||changes in payments from power purchasers of solar power plants already in operation;|
|●||the rate and cost at which we are able to expand our internal production capacity;|
|●||the availability and cost of solar cells and wafers from our suppliers and toll manufacturers;|
|●||the availability and cost of raw materials, particularly high-purity silicon;|
|●||changes in government incentive programs and regulations, particularly in our key and target markets;|
|●||the unpredictable volume and timing of customer orders;|
|●||the loss of one or more key customers or the significant reduction or postponement of orders;|
|●||the availability and cost of external financing for on-grid and off-grid solar power applications;|
|●||acquisition, investment and offering costs;|
|●||the timing of successful completion of customer acceptance testing of our solar and battery storage projects;|
|●||geopolitical turmoil and natural disasters within any of the countries in which we operate;|
|●||foreign currency fluctuations, particularly in Renminbi, Euros, Japanese yen, Brazilian reals, Australian dollars, South African rand, Canadian dollars and Thai baht;|
|●||our ability to establish and expand customer relationships;|
|●||changes in our manufacturing costs;|
|●||the timing of new products or technology introduced or announced by our competitors;|
|●||fluctuations in electricity rates due to changes in fossil fuel prices or other factors;|
|●||allowances for credit losses;|
|●||impairment of property, plant and equipment;|
|●||impairment of project assets;|
|●||impairment of investments in affiliates;|
|●||depreciation charges relating to under-utilized assets;|
|●||share-based compensation expenses on performance-based share awards under our share incentive plan;|
|●||construction progress of solar and battery storage projects and related revenue recognition; and|
|●||antidumping, countervailing and other duty costs and true-up charges|
We base our planned operating expenses in part on our expectations of future revenues. A significant portion of our expenses will be fixed in the short-term. If our revenues for a particular quarter are lower than we expect, we may not be able to reduce our operating expenses proportionately, which would harm our operating results for the quarter. As a result, our results of operations may fluctuate from quarter to quarter and our interim and annual financial results may differ from our historical performance.
Fluctuations in exchange rates could adversely affect our business, including our financial condition and results of operations.
The majority of our sales in 2019, 2020 and 2021 were denominated in U.S. dollars, Renminbi and Euros, with the remainder in other currencies such as Japanese Yen, Brazilian reals, Australian dollars, South African rand and Canadian dollars. The majority of our costs and expenses in 2019, 2020 and 2021 were denominated in Renminbi and were primarily related to the sourcing of solar cells, silicon wafers and silicon, other raw materials, including PV glass, aluminum, silver metallization paste, solar module back sheet, ethylene vinyl acetate, encapsulant, toll manufacturing fees, labor costs and local overhead expenses within the PRC. From time to time, we enter into loan arrangements with commercial banks that are denominated primarily in Renminbi, U.S. dollars, Japanese yen, Australian dollars and Euros. Most of our cash and cash equivalents and restricted cash are denominated in Renminbi. Fluctuations in exchange rates, particularly between the U.S. dollars, Renminbi, Canadian dollars, Japanese yen, Euros, Brazilian reals, South African rand and Thai baht may result in foreign exchange gains or losses. We recorded net foreign exchange gain of $10.4 million in 2019 and net foreign exchange loss of $64.8 million in 2020, and net foreign exchange loss of $47.2 million in 2021.
The value of the Renminbi against the U.S. dollars, the Euros and other currencies is affected by, among other things, changes in China’s political and economic conditions and China’s foreign exchange policies. We cannot provide any assurances that the policy of the PRC government will not affect, or the manner in which it may affect the exchange rate between the Renminbi and the U.S. dollars or other foreign currencies in the future.
Since 2008, we have hedged part of our foreign currency exposures primarily against the U.S. dollars using foreign currency forward or option contracts. In addition to the requirement to provide collateral when entering into hedging contracts, there are notional limits on the size of the hedging transactions that we may enter into with any particular counterparty at any given time. While these contracts are intended to reduce the effects of fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, our hedging strategy does not mitigate the longer-term impacts of changes to foreign exchange rates. We do not enter into these contracts for trading purposes or speculation, and we believe all these contracts are entered into as hedges of underlying transactions. Nonetheless, these contracts involve costs and risks of their own in the form of transaction costs, credit requirements and counterparty risk. Also, the effectiveness of our hedging program may be limited due to cost effectiveness, cash management, exchange rate visibility and associated management judgment on exchange rate movement, and downside protection. We recorded a loss on change in foreign currency derivatives of $21.3 million in 2019, a gain on change in foreign currency derivatives of $51.2 million in 2020, and a loss on change in foreign currency derivatives of $22.8 million in 2021. These gains or losses on change in foreign currency derivatives are related to our hedging program. If our hedging program is not successful, or if we change our hedging activities in the future, we may experience significant unexpected expenses from fluctuations in exchange rates.
Volatility in foreign exchange rates will hamper, to some extent, our ability to plan our pricing strategy. To the extent that we are unable to pass along increased costs resulting from exchange rate fluctuations to our customers, our profitability may be adversely impacted. As a result, fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates could have a material and adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
A change in our effective tax rate can have a significant adverse impact on our business.
A number of factors may adversely impact our future effective tax rates, such as the jurisdictions in which our profits are determined to be earned and taxed; changes in the valuation of our deferred tax assets and liabilities; adjustments to provisional taxes upon finalization of various tax returns; adjustments to the interpretation of transfer pricing standards; changes in available tax credits; changes in stock-based compensation expenses; changes in tax laws or the interpretation of tax laws (e.g., in connection with fundamental U.S. international tax reform); changes in U.S. GAAP; and expiration of or the inability to renew tax rulings or tax holiday incentives. In particular, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”) is working on proposals for international tax reform as an extension of its Base Erosion and Profit Shifting project. The proposals are comprised in a two-pillar approach: Pillar One, which is focused on the re-allocation of some of the taxable profits of multinational enterprises to the markets where consumers are located; and Pillar Two, which is focused on establishing a global minimum corporate taxation rate. In June 2021, the finance ministers of the G7 nations announced an agreement on the principles of the two pillar approach. Subsequently, in October 2021, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework announced that 136 countries and jurisdictions had joined an agreement on the two-pillar approach, including the establishment of a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15%. In December 2021, the OECD published detailed rules to assist in the implementation of Pillar Two. The G20 called for all the rules to enter into force at a global level by 2024, with some to be implemented in 2023. The impact of the reform on us will depend on implementation by the adhering countries of the reform. A change in our effective tax rate due to any of these factors may adversely influence our future results of operations.
Seasonal variations in demand linked to construction cycles and weather conditions may influence our results of operations.
Our business is subject to seasonal variations in demand linked to construction cycles and weather conditions. Demand for solar power and battery storage products and services from some markets, such as the U.S., China, Europe and Japan, may also be subject to significant seasonality due to adverse weather conditions that can complicate the installation of solar power and battery storage systems and negatively impact the construction schedules of solar and battery storage projects. Seasonal variations could adversely affect our results of operations and make them more volatile and unpredictable.
Our future success depends partly on our ability to maintain and expand our solar components manufacturing capacity, which exposes us to a number of risks and uncertainties.
Our future success depends partly on our ability to maintain and expand our solar components manufacturing capacity. If we are unable to do so, we may be unable to expand our business, maintain our competitive position, and improve our profitability. Our ability to expand our solar components production capacity is subject to risks and uncertainties, including:
|●||the need to raise significant additional funds to purchase raw materials and to build additional manufacturing facilities, which we may be unable to obtain on commercially reasonable terms or at all;|
|●||delays and cost overruns as a result of a number of factors, many of which are beyond our control, including delays in equipment delivery by vendors;|
|●||delays or denial of required regulatory approvals by relevant government authorities;|
|●||diversion of significant management attention and other resources; and|
|●||failure to execute our expansion plan effectively.|
If we are unable to maintain and expand our internal production capacity, we may be unable to expand our business as planned. Moreover, even if we do maintain and expand our production capacity, we might still not be able to generate sufficient customer demand for our solar power and battery storage products to support the increased production levels.
We may be unable to generate sufficient cash flows or have access to external financing necessary to fund planned operations and make adequate capital investments in manufacturing capacity and solar and battery storage project development.
We anticipate that our operating and capital expenditures requirements may increase. To develop new products, support future growth, achieve operating efficiencies and maintain product quality, we may need to make significant capital investments in manufacturing technology, facilities and capital equipment, research and development, and product and process technology. We also anticipate that our operating costs may increase as we expand our manufacturing operations, hire additional personnel, increase our sales and marketing efforts, invest in joint ventures and acquisitions, and continue our research and development efforts with respect to our products and manufacturing technologies.
Our operations are capital intensive. We rely on financing substantially from Chinese banks for our manufacturing operations. We cannot guarantee that we will continue to be able to extend existing or obtain new financing on commercially reasonable terms or at all. See “—Our dependence on Chinese banks to extend our existing loans and provide additional loans exposes us to short-term funding risks, which may materially and adversely affect our operations.” Also, even though we are a publicly-traded company and had successfully issued convertible notes in the past, we may not be able to raise capital via public equity and debt issuances due to market conditions and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. Our ability to obtain external financing is subject to a variety of uncertainties, including:
|●||our future financial condition, results of operations and cash flows;|
|●||general market conditions for financing activities by manufacturers of solar power and battery storage products, including, but not limited to interest rates; and|
|●||economic, political and other conditions in the PRC and elsewhere.|
If we are unable to obtain funding in a timely manner and on commercially acceptable terms, our growth prospects and future profitability may be adversely affected.
Construction of our solar and battery storage projects may require us to obtain financing for our projects, including through project financing, green bond financing or others. If we are unable to obtain financing, or if financing is only available on terms which are not acceptable to us, we may be unable to fully execute our business plan. In addition, we generally expect to sell our projects to tax-oriented, strategic industry and other investors. Such investors may not be available or may only have limited resources, in which case our ability to sell our projects may be hindered or delayed and our business, financial condition, and results of operations may be adversely affected. There can be no assurance that we will be able to generate sufficient cash flows, find other sources of capital to fund our operations and solar and battery storage projects, make adequate capital investments to remain competitive in terms of technology development and cost efficiency required by our projects. If adequate funds and alternative resources are not available on acceptable terms, our ability to fund our operations, develop and construct solar and battery storage projects, develop and expand our manufacturing operations and distribution network, maintain our research and development efforts or otherwise respond to competitive pressures would be significantly impaired. Our inability to do the foregoing could have a material and adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
We have substantial indebtedness and may incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future, which could adversely affect our financial health and our ability to generate sufficient cash to satisfy our outstanding and future debt obligations.
In the ordinary course of developing solar and battery storage projects, we carry substantial indebtedness and may incur substantial additional indebtedness in the future, which could adversely affect our financial health and our ability to generate sufficient cash to satisfy our outstanding and future debt obligations. Our substantial indebtedness could have important consequences to us and our shareholders. For example, it could:
|●||limit our ability to satisfy our debt obligations;|
|●||increase our vulnerability to adverse general economic and industry conditions;|
|●||require us to dedicate a substantial portion of our cash flow from operations to servicing and repaying our indebtedness, thereby reducing the availability of our cash flow to fund working capital, capital expenditures and for other general corporate purposes;|
|●||limit our flexibility in planning for or reacting to changes in our businesses and the industry in which we operate;|
|●||place us at a competitive disadvantage compared with our competitors that have less debt;|
|●||limit, along with the financial and other restrictive covenants of our indebtedness, among other things, our ability to borrow additional funds; and|
|●||increase the cost of additional financing.|
In the future, we may from time to time incur substantial additional indebtedness and contingent liabilities. If we incur additional debt, the risks that we face as a result of our already substantial indebtedness and leverage could intensify.
Our ability to generate sufficient cash to satisfy our outstanding and future debt obligations will depend upon our future operating performance, which will be affected by prevailing economic conditions and financial, business and other factors, many of which are beyond our control. We cannot assure you that we will be able to generate sufficient cash flow from operations to support the repayment of our current indebtedness. If we are unable to service our indebtedness, we will be forced to adopt an alternative strategy that may include actions such as reducing or delaying capital expenditures, selling assets, restructuring or refinancing our indebtedness or seeking equity capital. These strategies may not be instituted on satisfactory terms, if at all. In addition, certain of our financing arrangements impose operating and financial restrictions on our business, which may negatively affect our ability to react to changes in market conditions, take advantage of business opportunities we believe to be desirable, obtain future financing, fund required capital expenditures, or withstand a continuing or future downturn in our business. Any of these factors could materially and adversely affect our ability to satisfy our debt obligations.
We must comply with certain financial and other covenants under the terms of our debt instruments and the failure to do so may put us in default under those instruments.
Many of our debt instruments include financial covenants and broad default provisions. The financial covenants primarily include interest and debt coverage ratios, debt to asset ratios, contingent liability ratios and minimum equity requirements, which, in general, govern our existing long-term debt and debt we may incur in the future. These covenants could limit our ability to plan for or react to market conditions or to meet our capital needs in a timely manner and complying with these covenants may require us to curtail some of our operations and growth plans. In addition, any global or regional economic deterioration may cause us to incur significant net losses or force us to assume considerable liabilities, which would adversely impact our ability to comply with the financial and other covenants of our outstanding loans. If our creditors refuse to grant waivers for any non-compliance with these covenants, such non-compliance will constitute an event of default which may accelerate the amounts due under the applicable loan agreements. Some of our loan agreements also contain cross-default clauses that could enable creditors under our debt instruments to declare an event of default should there be an event of default on our other loan agreements. We cannot assure you that we will be able to remain in compliance with these covenants in the future. We may not be able to cure future violations or obtain waivers of non-compliance on a timely basis. An event of default under any agreement governing our existing or future debt, if not cured by us or waived by our creditors, could have a material adverse effect on our liquidity, financial condition and results of operations.
Our dependence on Chinese banks to extend our existing loans and provide additional loans exposes us to short-term funding risks, which may materially and adversely affect our operations.
We require significant cash flow and funding to support our operations. As a result, we rely on short-term borrowings to provide working capital for our daily manufacturing operations. Since a significant portion of our borrowings come from Chinese banks, we are exposed to lending policy changes by the Chinese banks. As of December 31, 2021, we had outstanding borrowings of $1,022.3 million with Chinese banks.
If the Chinese government changes its macroeconomic policies and forces Chinese banks to tighten their lending practices, or if Chinese banks are no longer willing to provide financing to solar companies, including us, we may not be able to extend our short-term borrowings or make additional borrowings in the future. As a result, we may not be able to fund our operations to the same extent as in previous years, which may have a material and adverse effect on our operations.
Cancellations of customer orders may make us unable to recoup any prepayments made to suppliers.
In the past, we were required to make prepayments to certain suppliers, primarily suppliers of machinery, silicon raw materials, solar ingots, wafers and cells. Although we require certain customers to make partial prepayments, there is generally a lag between the due date for the prepayment of purchased machinery, silicon raw materials, solar ingots, wafers and cells and the time that our customers make prepayments. In the event that our customers cancel their orders, we may not be able to recoup prepayments made to suppliers, which could adversely influence our financial condition and results of operations.
Long-term supply agreements may make it difficult for us to adjust our raw material costs should prices decrease. Also, if we terminate any of these agreements, we may not be able to recover all or any part of the advance payments we have made to these suppliers and we may be subject to litigation.
We may enter into long-term supply agreements with silicon and wafer suppliers with fixed price and quantity terms in order to secure a stable supply of raw materials to meet our production requirements. If, during the term of these agreements, the price of materials decreases significantly and we are unable to renegotiate favorable terms with our suppliers, we may be placed at a competitive disadvantage compared to our competitors, and our earnings could decline. In addition, if demand for our solar power and battery storage products decreases, yet our supply agreements require us to purchase more silicon wafers and solar cells than required to meet customer demand, we may incur costs associated with carrying excess inventory. To the extent that we are not able to pass these increased costs on to our customers, our business, cash flows, financial condition and results of operations may be materially and adversely affected. If our suppliers file lawsuits against us for early termination of these contracts, such events could be costly, may divert management’s attention and other resources away from our business, and could have a material and adverse effect on our reputation, business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
Credit terms offered to some of our customers expose us to the credit risks of such customers and may increase our costs and expenses, which could in turn materially and adversely affect our revenues, liquidity and results of operations.
We offer unsecured short-term or medium-term credit to some of our customers based on their creditworthiness and market conditions. As a result, our claims for payments and sales credits rank as unsecured claims, which expose us to credit risk if our customers become insolvent or bankrupt.
From time to time, we sell our products to high credit risk customers in order to gain early access to emerging or promising markets, increase our market share in existing key markets or because of the prospects of future sales with a rapidly growing customer. There are significant credit risks in doing business with these customers because they are often small, young and high-growth companies with significant unfunded working capital, inadequate balance sheets and credit metrics and limited operating histories. If these customers are not able to obtain satisfactory working capital, maintain adequate cash flow, or obtain construction financing for the projects where our solar products are used, they may be unable to pay for the products for which they have ordered or of which they have taken delivery. Our legal recourse under such circumstances may be limited if the customer’s financial resources are already constrained or if we wish to continue to do business with that customer. Revenue recognition for this type of customer is deferred until cash is received. If more customers to whom we extend credit are unable to pay for our products, our revenues, liquidity and results of operations could be materially and adversely affected.
Supply chain issues, including shortages of adequate raw materials, component and equipment supply, cancellation or delay of purchase orders, inflationary pressures and cost escalation could adversely affect our business, results of operations and relationship with customers, particularly given our dependence on a limited number of suppliers of key elements like silicon wafers and cells.
We depend mainly on third-party suppliers for raw materials and components such as solar silicon, ingots, wafer, cell, PV glass, aluminum, silver metallization paste, solar module back sheet, ethylene vinyl acetate encapsulant, lithium iron phosphate battery cell, inverter, tracker, mounting hardware, and grid interconnection and power stability equipment, and we also procure certain equipment overseas. We procure these materials and equipment for our products from a limited number of suppliers. By way of example, in 2021, a significant portion of the silicon raw materials, wafers and solar cells used in our solar modules was purchased from third parties, namely, Hongyuan New Material (Baotou) Co., Ltd. (“Hongyuan”) as monocrystalline square silicon ingots supplier, Longi as silicon wafer suppliers, and Tongwei Solar Co., Ltd. (“Tongwei Solar”) and Aiko Solar Energy Co., Ltd (“Aiko Solar”) as solar cells suppliers. Our suppliers may not always be able to meet quantity requirements, or keep pace with the price reductions or quality improvements, necessary for us to price products and projects competitively. Additionally, they may experience manufacturing delays and increased manufacturing cost that could increase the lead time for deliveries or impose price increases.
The failure of a supplier, for whatever reason, to supply the materials, essential components and equipment that meet quality, quantity and cost requirements in a timely manner could impair our ability to manufacture products (including solar modules) or develop projects, increase costs, hinder compliance with supply agreements’ terms and may result, ultimately, in cancellation of purchase orders and potential liability for us. The impact could be more severe if we are unable to access alternative sources on a timely basis or on commercially reasonable terms to deliver products to customers in the required quantities and at prices that are profitable. Further, a significant portion of our manufacturing and suppliers’ manufacturing and supply chain are operated in China, and may be subject to potential disruptions due to government-mandated facility closure as a consequence of energy shortage or other causes. Supply may also be interrupted by accidents, disasters or other unforeseen events beyond our control.
The search for alternative sources of supply to face the above problems may increase our manufacturing costs. Likewise, increased integration of manufacturing processes to lower costs could potentially damage our business, results of operations and relationship with customers. In any case, in spite of the possible implementation of remedial courses of action or fallback plans, we may not be able to offset this impact through increases in product pricing or through alternate sources of supply. Problems of this kind could consequentially reduce market share, harm our reputation and cause legal disputes with customers. All of the above mentioned factors could adversely impact our business, results of operations and relationship with customers.
Inflation in many countries and regions, especially in those where we operate, may adversely affect our business and our profitability.
As of December 31, 2021, we have facilities and offices in many countries and regions, including Canada, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Israel, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, the Americas, the EU (which includes Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain), the U.K. and the PRC. We currently sell our products to a diverse customer base in various markets worldwide, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, South Africa, China, Japan, India, Thailand, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. As such, we are exposed to the inflation risks therein.
While the inflation rates in certain countries, e.g. China, have been relatively tame in recent years (2.9%, 2.5% and 0.9% in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, according to the National Bureau of Statistics of China), other countries and regions have experienced higher inflation rates. Most Latin American countries have historically experienced, and may continue to experience in the future, high inflations rates. For example, Argentina, a country where we develop certain solar project, experienced inflation rates of 53.8%, 36.1% and 50.9% in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, according to Central Bank of Argentina. Brazil, a country where we operate solar project business and secure financing facility, experienced inflation rates of 4.3%, 4.5% and 10.1% in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively, according to its National Consumer Price Index, which is published by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics, or IBGE. The measures taken by the Brazilian government to curb inflation have included maintaining strict monetary policies and high interest rates, which restricted the availability of credit. Due to recent world events, the inflation rate in the Euro Area rose to a fresh record high of 5.9% in February of 2022 from 5.1% in January of 2022, and the inflation rate in the U.S. accelerated to 7.9% in February of 2022, the highest since January of 1982.
Inflation could increase the costs of our raw material such as polysilicon, wafer, PV cell and lithium iron phosphate battery cell. For example, the market prices of silicon materials, silicon wafers, and battery cells substantially rose by 150%, 60% and 10%, respectively, from January to September 2021, and the market price of silicon-based materials rose sharply again in October 2021. In addition, inflation tends to devalue a currency. As a result, countries experiencing high inflation tend to also see their currencies weaken relative to other currencies, which may expose multinational companies like us to exchange-related risks. Please see “—Fluctuations in exchange rates could adversely affect our business, including our financial condition and results of operations” for the details on such risks.
We may not be able to adjust the pricing of our PPAs or solar power and battery storage products sufficiently or take appropriate pricing actions to fully offset the effects of inflation on our cost structures, thus we may fail to maintain current levels of gross profit and operating, selling and distribution, general and administrative expenses and maintenance costs as a percentage of total net revenues. As such, rising inflation rates may negatively impact our profitability. In addition, a high inflation environment would also have negative effects on the level of economic activity, employment and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial conditions. For example, an increase in the inflation rates may result in an increase in market interest rates, which may require us to pay higher interest rates on debt securities that we issue in the financial market from time to time to finance our operations and increase our interest expenses.
We are developing and commercializing higher conversion efficiency cells, but we may not be able to mass-produce these cells in a cost-effective way, if at all.
Higher efficiency cell structures are becoming an increasingly important factor in cost competitiveness and brand recognition in the solar power industry. Such cells may yield higher power outputs at the same cost to produce as lower efficiency cells, thereby lowering the manufactured cost per watt. The ability to manufacture and sell solar modules made from such cells may be an important competitive advantage because solar system owners can obtain a higher yield of electricity from the modules that have a similar infrastructure, footprint and system cost compared to systems with modules using lower efficiency cells. Higher conversion efficiency solar cells and the resulting higher output solar modules are one of the considerations in maintaining a price premium over thin-film products. However, while we are making the necessary investments to develop higher conversion efficiency solar power products, there is no assurance that we will be able to commercialize some or any of these products in a cost-effective way, or at all. In the near term, such products may command a modest premium. In the longer term, if our competitors are able to manufacture such products and we cannot do the same at all or in a cost-effective way, we will be at a competitive disadvantage, which will likely influence our product pricing and our financial performance.
We may be subject to unexpected warranty and product quality expenses that may not be adequately covered by our insurance policies.
We warrant, for a period up to twelve years, that our solar products will be free from defects in materials and workmanship.
We also warrant that, for a period of 25 years, our standard polycrystalline modules will maintain the following performance levels:
|●||during the first year, the actual power output of the module will be no less than 97.5% of the labeled power output;|
|●||from the second year to the 24th year, the actual annual power output decline of the module will be no more than 0.7%; and|
|●||by the end of the 25th year, the actual power output of the module will be no less than 80.7% of the labeled power output.|
We have provided warranty against decline in performance to 30 years for our bifacial module and double glass module products.
We believe that our warranty periods are consistent with industry practice. Due to the long warranty period, however, we bear the risk of extensive warranty claims long after we have shipped our products and recognized revenue. We began selling specialty solar products in 2002 and began selling standard solar modules in 2004. Any increase in the defect rate of our products would require us to increase our warranty reserves and would have a corresponding negative impact on our results of operations. Although we conduct quality testing and inspection of our solar module products, these have not been and cannot be tested in an environment simulating the up-to-30-year warranty periods. In particular, unknown issues may surface after extended use. These issues could potentially affect our market reputation and adversely affect our revenues, giving rise to potential warranty claims by our customers. As a result, we may be subject to unexpected warranty costs and associated harm to our financial results as long as 30 years after the sale of our products.
For solar and battery storage projects built by us, we also provide a limited workmanship or balance of system warranty against defects in engineering, design, installation and construction under normal use, operation and service conditions for a period of up to ten years following the energizing of the solar power plant. In resolving claims under the workmanship or balance of system warranty, we have the option of remedying through repair, refurbishment or replacement of equipment. We have also entered into similar workmanship warranties with our suppliers to back up our warranties.
As part of our energy business, before commissioning solar and battery storage projects, we conduct performance testing to confirm that the projects meet the operational and capacity expectations set forth in the agreements. In limited cases, we also provide for an energy generation performance test designed to demonstrate that the actual energy generation for up to the first three years meets or exceeds the modeled energy expectation (after adjusting for actual solar irradiation). In the event that the energy generation performance test performs below expectations, the appropriate party (EPC contractor or equipment provider) may incur liquidated damages capped at a percentage of the contract price.
We have entered into agreements with a group of insurance companies with high credit ratings to back up a portion of our warranties. Under the terms of the insurance policies, which are designed to match the terms of our solar module product warranty policy, the insurance companies are obliged to reimburse us, subject to certain maximum claim limits and certain deductibles, for the actual product warranty costs that we incur under the terms of our solar module product warranty policy. We record the insurance premiums initially as prepaid expenses and amortize them over the respective policy period of one year. However, potential warranty claims may exceed the scope or amount of coverage under this insurance and, if they do, they could materially and adversely affect our business.
We may not continue to be successful in developing and maintaining a cost-effective solar cell, wafer and ingot manufacturing capability.
Our annual solar cell, solar wafer and ingot production capacity was 13.9 GW, 11.5 GW and 5.4 GW, respectively, as of December 31, 2021. To remain competitive, we intend to expand our annual solar cell, wafer and ingot production capacity to meet expected growth in demand for our solar modules. In doing so, we may face significant product development challenges. Manufacturing solar cells, wafers and ingots is a complex process and we may not be able to produce a sufficient quality of these items to meet our solar module manufacturing standards. Minor deviations in the manufacturing process can cause substantial decreases in yield and in some cases result in no yield or cause production to be suspended. We will need to make capital expenditures to purchase manufacturing equipment for solar cell, wafer and ingot production and will also need to make significant investments in research and development to keep pace with technological advances in solar power technology. Any failure to successfully develop and maintain cost-effective manufacturing capability may have a material and adverse effect on our business and prospects. For example, we have in the past purchased a large percentage of solar cells from third parties. This negatively affected our margins compared with those of our competitors since it is less expensive to produce cells internally than to purchase them from third parties. Because third party solar cell purchases are usually made in a period of high demand, prices tend to be higher and availability reduced.
Although we intend to continue direct purchasing of solar cells, wafers and ingots and toll manufacturing arrangements through a limited number of strategic partners, our relationships with our suppliers may be disrupted if we engage in the large-scale production of solar cells, wafers and ingots ourselves. If our suppliers discontinue or reduce the supply of solar cells, wafers and ingots to us, through direct sales or through toll manufacturing arrangements, and we are not able to compensate for the loss or reduction by manufacturing our own solar cells, wafers and ingots, our business and results of operations may be adversely affected. For more details, see “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—D. Employees.”
We may not achieve acceptable yields and product performance as a result of manufacturing problems.
We need to continuously enhance and modify our solar module, cell, wafer and ingot production capabilities in order to improve yields and product performance. Microscopic impurities such as dust and other contaminants, difficulties in the manufacturing process, disruptions in the supply of utilities or defects in the key materials and tools used to manufacture solar modules, cells, ingots and wafers can cause a percentage of the solar modules, cells, ingots and wafers to be rejected, which would negatively affect our yields. We may experience manufacturing difficulties that cause production delays and lower than expected yields.
Problems in our facilities, including but not limited to production failures, human errors, weather conditions, equipment malfunction or process contamination, may limit our ability to manufacture products, which could seriously harm our operations. We are also susceptible to floods, tornados, droughts, power losses and similar events beyond our control that would affect our facilities. A disruption in any step of the manufacturing process will require us to repeat each step and recycle the silicon debris, which would adversely affect our yields and manufacturing cost.
If we are unable to attract, train and retain technical personnel, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
Our future success depends, to a significant extent, on our ability to attract, train and retain technical personnel. Recruiting and retaining qualified technical personnel, particularly those with expertise in the solar power industry, are vital to our success. There is substantial competition for qualified technical personnel, and there can be no assurance that we will be able to attract or retain sufficient qualified technical personnel. If we are unable to attract and retain qualified employees, our business may be materially and adversely affected.
Our dependence on a limited number of customers and our lack of long-term customer contracts may cause significant fluctuations or declines in our revenues.
We sell a substantial portion of our solar module and battery storage products to a limited number of customers, including distributors, system integrators, project developers and installers/EPC companies. We sell solar and battery storage projects to limited number of utility companies or grid operators, and sell electricity to a limited number of customers including public utilities, licensed suppliers, corporate offtakers, or commercial, industrial or government end users. Our top five customers by revenues collectively accounted for approximately 24.2%, 21.2% and 18.6% of our net revenues in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. We anticipate that our dependence on a limited number of customers will continue for the foreseeable future. Consequently, any of the following events may cause material fluctuations or declines in our revenues:
|●||reduced, delayed or cancelled orders from one or more of our significant customers;|
|●||the loss of one or more of our significant customers;|
|●||a significant customer’s failure to pay for our products on time; and|
|●||a significant customer’s financial difficulties or insolvency.|
As we continue to expand our business and operations, our top customers continue to change. We cannot assure that we will be able to develop a consistent customer base.
There are a limited number of purchasers of utility-scale quantities of electricity and entities that have the ability to interconnect projects to the grid, which exposes us and our utility scale solar and battery storage projects to additional risk.
Since the transmission and distribution of electricity is either monopolized or highly concentrated in most jurisdictions, there are a limited number of possible purchasers for utility-scale quantities of electricity in a given geographic location, normally transmission grid operators, state and investor-owned power companies, public utility districts and cooperatives. As a result, there is a concentrated pool of potential buyers for electricity generated by our solar power plants, which may restrict our ability to negotiate favorable terms under new PPAs and could impact our ability to find new customers for the electricity generated by our solar power plants should this become necessary. Additionally, these possible purchasers may have a role in connecting our projects to the grid to allow the flow of electricity. Furthermore, if the financial condition of these utilities and/or power purchasers deteriorates, or government policies or regulations to which they are subject and which compel them to source renewable energy supplies change, demand for electricity produced by our plants or the ability to connect to the grid could be negatively impacted. In addition, provisions in our PPAs or applicable laws may provide for the curtailment of delivery of electricity for various reasons, including preventing damage to transmission systems, system emergencies, force majeure or economic reasons. Such curtailment could reduce revenues to us from our PPAs. If we cannot enter into PPAs on terms favorable to us, or at all, or if the purchaser under our PPAs were to exercise its curtailment or other rights to reduce purchases or payments under the PPAs, our revenues and our decisions regarding development of additional projects in the energy business may be adversely affected.
Product liability claims against us could result in adverse publicity and potentially significant monetary damages.
We, along with other solar power and battery storage product manufacturers, are exposed to risks associated with product liability claims if the use of our solar and battery power products results in injury or death. Since our products generate or store electricity, it is possible that users could be injured or killed by our products due to product malfunctions, defects, improper installation or other causes. Although we carry limited product liability insurance, we may not have adequate resources to satisfy a judgment if a successful claim is brought against us. The successful assertion of product liability claims against us could result in potentially significant monetary damages and require us to make significant payments. Even if the product liability claims against us are determined in our favor, we may suffer significant damage to our reputation.
Our founder, Dr. Shawn Qu, has substantial influence over our company and his interests may not be aligned with the interests of our other shareholders.
As of February 28, 2022, Dr. Shawn Qu, our founder, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, beneficially owned 13,760,492 common shares, or 21.4% of our outstanding shares. As a result, Dr. Shawn Qu has substantial influence over our business, including decisions regarding mergers and acquisition, consolidations, the sale of all or substantially all of our assets, the election of directors and other significant corporate actions. This concentration of ownership may discourage, delay or prevent a change in control of our company, which could deprive our other shareholders of an opportunity to receive a premium for their shares as part of a sale of our company and might reduce the price of our common shares.
We may be exposed to infringement, misappropriation or other claims by third parties, which, if determined adversely to us, could require us to pay significant damage awards.
Our success depends on our ability to develop and use our technology and know-how and sell our solar power and battery storage products and services without infringing the intellectual property or other rights of third parties. The validity and scope of claims against us in our ordinary course of business relating to solar power and battery storage technology patents involve complex scientific, legal and factual questions and analyses and are therefore highly uncertain. We may be subject to litigation involving claims of patent infringement or the violation of intellectual property rights of third parties. Defending intellectual property suits, patent opposition proceedings and related legal and administrative proceedings can be both costly and time-consuming and may significantly divert the efforts and resources of our technical and management personnel. Additionally, we use both imported and China-made equipment in our production lines, sometimes without sufficient supplier guarantees that our use of such equipment does not infringe third-party intellectual property rights. This creates a potential source of litigation or infringement claims. An adverse determination in any such litigation or proceedings to which we may become a party from time to time could subject us to significant liability to third parties or require us to seek licenses from third parties, pay ongoing royalties, redesign our products or subject us to injunctions prohibiting the manufacture and sale of our products or the use of our technologies. Protracted litigation could also defer customers or potential customers or limit their purchase or use of our products until such litigation is resolved.
Compliance with environmental laws and regulations can be expensive, and noncompliance with these regulations may result in adverse publicity and potentially significant monetary damages, fines and the suspension or even termination of our business operations.
We are required to comply with all national and local environmental regulations. Our business generates noise, wastewater, gaseous wastes and other industrial waste in our operations and the risk of incidents with a potential environmental impact has increased as our business has expanded. We believe that we substantially comply with all relevant environmental laws and regulations and have all necessary and material environmental permits to conduct our business as it is presently conducted. However, if more stringent regulations are adopted in the future, the costs of complying with these new regulations could be substantial. If we fail to comply with present or future environmental regulations, we may be required to pay substantial fines, suspend production or cease operations.
Our solar power and battery storage products must comply with the environmental regulations of the jurisdictions in which they are installed, and we may incur expenses to design and manufacture our products to comply with such regulations. If compliance is unduly expensive or unduly difficult, we may lose market share and our financial results may be adversely affected. Any failure by us to control our use or to restrict adequately the discharge, of hazardous substances could subject us to potentially significant monetary damages, fines or suspensions of our business operations.
Corporate responsibility, specifically related to Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) matters and unsuccessful management of such matters may adversely impose additional costs and expose us to new risks.
Public ESG and sustainability reporting is becoming more broadly expected by investors, shareholders and other third parties. Certain organizations that provide corporate governance and other corporate risk information to investors and shareholders have developed, and others may in the future develop, scores and ratings to evaluate companies and investment funds based upon ESG or “sustainability” metrics. Many investment funds focus on positive ESG business practices and sustainability scores when making investments and may consider a company’s ESG or sustainability scores as a reputational or other factor in making an investment decision. In addition, investors, particularly institutional investors, use these scores to benchmark companies against their peers and if a company is perceived as lagging, these investors may engage with such company to improve ESG disclosure or performance and may also make voting decisions, or take other actions, to hold these companies and their boards of directors accountable. We may face reputational damage in the event our corporate responsibility initiatives or objectives, including with respect to board diversity, do not meet the standards set by our investors, shareholders, lawmakers, listing exchanges or other constituencies, or if we are unable to achieve an acceptable ESG or sustainability rating from third party rating services. Ongoing focus on corporate responsibility matters by investors and other parties as described above may impose additional costs or expose us to new risks, including increased risk of investigation and litigation, and negative impacts on the value of our products and access to capital, which may put us at a commercial disadvantage relative to our peers.
We have been and continue to rigorously monitor a range of sustainability-related key performance indicators, have adopted an ESG strategy, set ambitious targets, and instituted structures to ensure that ESG factors are incorporated in every major business decision we make and across our business. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Environmental, Social and Governance Initiatives.” However, implementing our ESG strategy may result in increased costs in our supply chain, fulfillment, and/or corporate business operations, and could deviate from our initial estimates and have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition. In addition, standards and research regarding ESG strategies could change and become more onerous both for us and our third-party suppliers and vendors to meet successfully. As such, there can be no certainty that we will be able to meet our ESG or other strategic objectives in an efficient and timely manner or at all, or that we will successfully meet societal expectations in this regard.
Furthermore, while we are already instituting ambitious decarbonization and other initiatives that help us reduce the environmental impact of our operations, new climate change laws and regulations could require us to change our manufacturing processes or procure substitute raw materials that may cost more or be more difficult to procure. Various jurisdictions in which we do business have implemented, or in the future could implement or amend, restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, limitations or restrictions on water use, regulations on energy management and waste management, and other climate change-based rules and regulations, which may increase our expenses and adversely affect our operating results. We expect increased worldwide regulatory activity relating to climate change in the future. Future compliance with these laws and regulations may adversely affect our business and results of operations.
We face risks related to natural disasters, health epidemics, such as COVID-19, and other catastrophes, which could significantly disrupt our operations.
Our business could be materially and adversely affected by natural disasters or other catastrophes, such as earthquakes, fire, floods, hail, windstorms, severe weather conditions, environmental accidents, power loss, communications failures, explosions, terrorist attacks and similar events. Our business could also be materially and adversely affected by public health emergencies, such as the outbreak of avian influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, Zika virus, Ebola virus, the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) or other local health epidemics in China and elsewhere and global pandemics. If any of our employees is suspected of having contracted any contagious disease, we may, under certain circumstances, be required to quarantine those employees and the affected areas of our operations. As a result, we may have to temporarily suspend part or all of our facilities. Furthermore, authorities may impose restrictions on travel and transportation and implement other preventative measures in affected regions to deal with the catastrophe or emergency, which may lead to the temporary closure of our facilities and declining economic activity at large. A prolonged outbreak of any health epidemic or other adverse public health developments, in China or elsewhere in the world, could have a material adverse effect on our business operations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to pose significant challenges to many aspects of our business, including our operations, customers, suppliers and projects. The extent to which the COVID-19 has and may persist to impact our ability to effectively operate continues to be highly uncertain. The outbreak continues to evolve, and the impact that COVID-19, or new variants of COVID-19, will ultimately have on our result of operations, financial condition, liquidity and cash flows cannot be estimated and is impossible to predict. We will continue to monitor and adhere to the policies, lockdowns, restrictions, and preventive measures implemented by the various government authorities, as well as general movement restrictions, social distancing and other measures imposed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
We may not be successful in establishing our brand name in important markets and the products we sell under our brand name may compete with the products we manufacture on an original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, basis for our customers.
We sell our products primarily under our own brand name but also on an OEM basis. In certain markets, our brand may not be as prominent as other more established solar power and battery storage product vendors, and there can be no assurance that our brand names “Canadian Solar”, “CSI”, “CSI Solar” and “Recurrent Energy” or any of our possible future brand names will gain acceptance among customers. Moreover, because the range of products that we sell under our own brands and those we manufacture for our OEM customers may be substantially similar, we may end up directly or indirectly competing with our OEM customers, which could negatively affect our relationship with them.
Failure to protect our intellectual property rights in connection with new solar power and battery storage products may undermine our competitive position.
As we develop and bring to market new solar power and battery storage products, we may need to increase our expenditures to protect our intellectual property. Our failure to protect our intellectual property rights may undermine our competitive position. As of February 28, 2022, we had 2,003 patents and 632 patent applications pending in the PRC for products that contribute a relatively small percentage of our net revenues. We have 17 U.S. patents, including 5 design patent, and 7 European patents, including 5 design patents. We have registered the “Canadian Solar” trademark in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Europe, Korea, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and more than 20 other countries and we have applied for registration of the “Canadian Solar” trademark in a number of other countries. As of February 28, 2022, we had 94 registered trademarks and 39 trademark applications pending in the PRC, and 127 registered trademarks and 18 trademark applications pending outside of China. These intellectual property rights afford only limited protection and the actions we take to protect our rights as we develop new solar power and battery storage products may not be adequate. Policing the unauthorized use of proprietary technology can be difficult and expensive. In addition, litigation, which can be costly and divert management attention, may be necessary to enforce our intellectual property rights, protect our trade secrets or determine the validity and scope of the proprietary rights of others.
We have limited insurance coverage and may incur significant losses resulting from operating hazards, product liability claims, project construction or business interruptions.
Our operations involve the use, handling, generation, processing, storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous materials, which may result in fires, explosions, spills and other unexpected or dangerous accidents causing personal injuries or death, property damages, environmental damages and business interruption. Although we currently carry third-party liability insurance against property damage, the policies for this insurance are limited in scope and may not cover all claims relating to personal injury, property or environmental damage arising from incidents on our properties or relating to our operations. See “Item 4. Information on the Company—B. Business Overview—Insurance.” Any occurrence of these or other incidents which are not insured under our existing insurance policies could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or results of operations.
We are also exposed to risks associated with product liability claims in the event that the use of our solar power and battery storage products results in injury. See “—Product liability claims against us could result in adverse publicity and potentially significant monetary damages.” Although we carry limited product liability insurance, we may not have adequate resources to satisfy a judgment if a successful claim is brought against us.
For projects we construct, we are exposed to risks associated with the design and construction that can create additional liabilities to our operations. We manage these risks by including contingencies to our construction costs, ensuring the appropriate insurance coverages are in place such as professional indemnity and construction all risk as well as obtaining indemnifications from our contractors where possible. However, there is no guarantee that these risk management strategies will always be successful. Further, some of our PPAs contain provisions that require us to pay liquidated damages if specified completion schedule requirements are not met, and these amounts could be significant.
In addition, the normal operation of our manufacturing facilities may be interrupted by accidents caused by operating hazards, power supply disruptions, equipment failure, as well as natural disasters. While our manufacturing plants in China and elsewhere are covered by business interruption insurance, any significant damage or interruption to these plants could still have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations.
If our internal control over financial reporting or disclosure controls and procedures are not effective, investors may lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could lead to a decline in our share price.
We are subject to the reporting obligations under U.S. securities laws. As required by Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, the SEC has adopted rules requiring every public company to include a management report on its internal control over financial reporting in its annual report, which contains management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting. In addition, an independent registered public accounting firm must report on the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting. As of December 31, 2021, our management concluded that our internal control over financial reporting was effective. However, we cannot assure you that material weaknesses in our internal controls over financial reporting will not be identified in the future. Any material weaknesses in our internal controls could cause us not to meet our periodic reporting obligations in a timely manner or result in material misstatements in our financial statements. Material weaknesses in our internal controls over financial reporting could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, leading to a decline in the market price of our common shares.
We have obtained approval for the proposed initial public offering of CSI Solar (the “STAR Listing”). The subsequent listing process with the securities regulatory authority could be uncertain, time-consuming and costly. We cannot assure you that the STAR Listing will eventually succeed.
On December 13, 2021, the stock listing committee of the Science and Technology Innovation Board (the “STAR Market”) of the Shanghai Stock Exchange determined that CSI Solar, formerly mainly our Module and System Solutions business, had met the offering, listing and disclosure requirements related to its proposed STAR Market listing. CSI Solar will then be required to go through the registration process with the China Securities Regulatory Commission, or the CSRC, before it can complete the listing on the STAR Market. On January 7, 2022, CSI Solar submitted the application documents for registration and the relevant examination and approval materials to CSRC for the offering registration process.
The process of listing a company on the public exchanges in the PRC can be time-consuming and expensive, potentially requiring significant time, resources and focus from our management team. Although we have received approval for the proposed listing, whether we can successfully complete the listing of CSI Solar’s shares, the related timeline, actual size and pricing of the offering still depend on various factors, including but not limited to, capital markets conditions in China and globally, the regulatory environment for listing securities, financial performance of CSI Solar Co., Ltd and its ability to fulfill the listing requirements in China.
Due to the complexity of conducting an initial public offering in the PRC, including the factors that are beyond our control, we cannot assure you that we would be able to complete the offering in accordance with our anticipated timeline, size and pricing, or at all. In addition, the process underlying the STAR Listing could result in significant diversion of management time as well as substantial out-of-pocket expenses. If CSI Solar fails to complete the listing process as required by the CSRC, we may need to seek other sources of funds to realize our business strategy, which may not be available to us at commercially reasonable terms, or at all. Any such inability to obtain funds may have adverse effect on our consolidated operating results and on the price of our common shares.
The market price of our common shares may be volatile or may decline, for reasons other than the risk and uncertainties described above, as the result of investor negativity or uncertainty with respect to the impact of the proposed STAR Listing.
Even if the STAR Listing is completed, we may not achieve the results contemplated by our business strategy (including with respect to use of proceeds from that offering). In addition, it is difficult to predict the effect of the proposed STAR Listing on our common shares.
Even if the STAR Listing is completed, we cannot assure you that we will realize any or all of our anticipated benefits of the STAR Listing. Our completion of the STAR Listing may not have the anticipated effects of strengthening CSI Solar and our market leadership position. If the STAR Listing is completed, CSI Solar will have broad discretion in the use of the proceeds from the STAR Listing, and it may not spend or invest those proceeds in a manner that results in our operating success or with which holders of our common shares agree. Currently, CSI Solar plans to primarily invest its proceeds from the STAR Listing in a range of capacity support and expansion projects, including annual output of 10 GW pull rod manufacturing, annual output of 10 GW silicon wafer manufacturing, annual output of 4 GW high-efficiency photovoltaic cell manufacturing and annual output of 10 GW high-efficiency photovoltaic cell module manufacturing. Our failure to successfully leverage the completion of the STAR Listing to expand our production capacity in the PRC could pose material adverse effects on our results of operations and consequently result in a decrease in the price of the common shares.
Once CSI Solar is listed in China, it will be subject to the listing and securities law regime of the PRC, and will result in increased legal, accounting and other compliance expenses that it did not incur as a private company. Furthermore, the stock exchange in China and Nasdaq have different trading hours, trading characteristics (including trading volume and liquidity), trading and listing rules, and investor bases, including different levels of retail and institutional participation. As a result of these differences and given the fact that CSI Solar will remain one of our significant subsidiaries, fluctuations in the price of the shares of CSI Solar due to circumstances peculiar to the PRC capital markets or otherwise could materially and adversely affect the price of our common shares, or vice versa. In addition, investors may elect to invest in our business and operations by purchasing CSI Solar shares in the STAR Listing or on the STAR Market rather than purchasing our common shares despite the lack of fungibility between these shares and ours, and that reduction in demand could lead to a decrease in the market price for the common shares.
Our ownership interest in CSI Solar will be diluted once it becomes a publicly traded company.
As the result of actions being taken in connection with the STAR Listing, including equity raising from China-domiciled investors, CSI Solar is a majority-owned subsidiary of our company. The minority interest in CSI Solar will increase upon completion of the STAR Listing and may diverge from the interests of ours and our other subsidiaries’ in the future. We may face conflicts of interest in managing, financing or engaging in transactions with CSI Solar, or allocating business opportunities between our subsidiaries.
Currently, we own approximately 80% of CSI Solar’s shares, which includes approximately 5% of the shares issued under CSI Solar’s employee stock ownership plan that will become effective immediately upon the completion of the STAR Listing. Immediately following the STAR Listing and giving effect to the ownership transfer of CSI Solar’s employee stock ownership plan shares and the dilutive effect from the shares newly issued for the STAR Listing, we expect to hold approximately 64% of CSI Solar’s shares. As such, our company will retain majority ownership of CSI Solar after the STAR Listing. However, CSI Solar will be managed by a separate board of directors and officers, and those directors and officers will owe fiduciary duties to the various stakeholders of CSI Solar, including shareholders other than our wholly-owned subsidiary. In the operation of CSI Solar’s business, the directors and officers of CSI Solar may, in the exercise of their fiduciary duties, take actions that may be contrary to the best interests of our company.
During or after the STAR Listing process, certain requirements of the PRC law, including demands from the CSRC, the Shanghai Stock Exchange or other relevant authorities, may have a bearing on holders of our common shares. Recently, in order to comply with the PRC law, some of our senior management resigned from our company and took senior management roles at CSI Solar In the future, CSI Solar may issue options, restricted shares and other forms of share-based compensation to its directors, officers and employees, which could dilute our company’s ownership in CSI Solar, increase our share-based compensation expense, and result in less net income attributable to us from CSI Solar. In addition, CSI Solar may engage in capital raising activities in the future that could further dilute our company’s ownership interest.
Our organizational structure will become more complex, including as a result of preparations for the STAR Listing. We will need to continue to scale and adapt our operational, financial and management controls, as well as our reporting systems and procedures, at both our company and CSI Solar. The continued expansion of our infrastructure will require us to commit substantial financial, operational and management resources. In addition, holders of our common shares may have limited opportunities to purchase CSI Solar’s shares even if the STAR Listing were completed.
We have granted, and may continue to grant various forms of share-based incentive awards, including performance-based share awards, under our share incentive plan, which may result in increased share-based compensation expenses.
We adopted a share incentive plan in 2006 under which we can grant restricted shares, options and restricted share units to eligible employees, directors and consultants. See “Item 6 Directors, Senior Management and Employees—B. Compensation of Directors and Executive Officers” for more details. In particular, we granted 2,096,000 RSUs to our directors and a group of our key employees, whereby vesting is contingent on the success of the STAR Listing (50% vesting on the IPO date, then 25% vesting each on the first and second anniversaries of the IPO). As such, these RSUs are considered performance-based share awards. As of December 31, 2021, 2,076,000 of such RSUs were unvested and outstanding. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2021, we did not record any share-based compensation expenses on these RSUs, as the vesting is dependent upon the consummation of the STAR Listing. We will recognize share-based compensation expenses on these RSUs upon vesting at and after the consummation of the STAR Listing.
We believe the granting of share-based compensation, including performance-based share awards, is of significant importance to our ability to attract, retain and motivate key personnel and employees, and we will continue to grant share-based compensation in the future. As a result, our expenses associated with share-based compensation may increase, which may have an adverse effect on our results of operations. In addition, expenses associated with performance-based share awards may fluctuate greater between periods compared to those associated with time-based share awards.
The Accelerating Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, if enacted, would reduce the time period before our common shares may be prohibited from trading or delisted. The delisting of our common shares, or the threat of their being delisted, may materially and adversely affect the value of your investment. Additionally, the inability of the PCAOB to conduct adequate inspections deprives our investors of the benefits of such inspections.
The Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act, or the HFCAA, was enacted on December 18, 2020. The HFCAA, which became effective on January 1, 2021, states if the SEC determines that an issuer that is required to file reports under Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or a registrant, has filed audit reports issued by a registered public accounting firm that has not been subject to inspection by the PCAOB for three consecutive years beginning in 2021, the SEC shall prohibit that registrant’s shares or ADSs from being traded on a national securities exchange or in the over the counter trading market in the U.S.
In September 2021, the PCAOB adopted a rule related to the PCAOB’s responsibilities under the HFCAA, which establishes a framework for the PCAOB to determine, as contemplated under the HFCAA, whether the PCAOB is unable to inspect or investigate completely registered public accounting firms located in a foreign jurisdiction because of a position taken by one or more authorities in that jurisdiction. The rule was approved by the SEC in November 2021. On December 16, 2021, the PCAOB issued a report to notify the SEC its determinations that it is unable to inspect or investigate completely PCAOB-registered public accounting firms headquartered in Mainland China and Hong Kong, and identifies the registered public accounting firms in Mainland China and Hong Kong that are subject to such determinations. Our auditor is identified by the PCAOB and is subject to the determination.
Our auditor, the independent registered public accounting firm that issues the audit report included elsewhere in this annual report on Form 20-F, as an auditor of companies that are traded publicly in the United States and a firm registered with the PCAOB, is subject to laws in the United States pursuant to which the PCAOB conducts regular inspections to assess its compliance with the applicable professional standards. Since our auditor is located in China, a jurisdiction where the PCAOB has been unable to conduct inspections without the approval of the Chinese authorities, our auditor is currently not inspected by the PCAOB as determined by the announcement of the PCAOB issued on December 16, 2021.
On December 2, 2021, the SEC adopted final amendments implementing the disclosure and submission requirements of the HFCAA. Under the final amendments establishes the SEC’s procedures for determining whether a registrant is a “Commission-Identified Issuer” under the HFCAA, and prohibiting the trading of Commission-Identified Issuer’s securities. If the SEC determines that we are a Commission-Identified Issuer under the HFCAA for three consecutive years, or if the audit report filed as part of our annual report with the SEC is otherwise deemed not to be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act due to the PCAOB’s inability to inspect our auditor, the SEC may prohibit our common shares from being traded on a national securities exchange or in the over the counter trading market in the U.S., which could affect the liquidity of our common shares. Whether the PCAOB will be able to conduct inspections of our auditor before the issuance of our financial statements on Form 20-F for the year ending December 31, 2023 which is due by April 30, 2024, or at all, is subject to substantial uncertainty and depends on a number of factors out of our, and our auditor’s, control.
In addition, on June 22, 2021, the U.S. Senate passed a bill which would reduce the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the HFCAA from three years to two. On February 4, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill which contained, among other things, an identical provision. If this provision is enacted into law and the number of consecutive non-inspection years required for triggering the prohibitions under the HFCAA is reduced from three years to two, then our common shares could be prohibited from trading in the United States as early as 2023.
The prospect and implications of possible regulation on this subject, in addition to the prevailing requirements of the HFCAA, are uncertain. Such uncertainty could cause the market price of our common shares to be materially and adversely affected, and our securities could be delisted or prohibited from being traded “over-the-counter” earlier than would be required by the HFCAA as it currently provides. If our securities are unable to be listed on another securities exchange by then, such a delisting would substantially impair your ability to sell or purchase our common shares when you wish to do so, and the risk and uncertainty associated with a potential delisting would have a negative impact on the price of our common shares.
If additional remedial measures are imposed on the big four PRC-based accounting firms, including our independent registered public accounting firm, in administrative proceedings brought by the SEC alleging the firms’ failure to meet specific criteria set by the SEC, with respect to requests for the production of documents, we could be unable to timely file future financial statements in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In late 2012, the SEC commenced administrative proceedings under Rule 102(e) of its Rules of Practice and also under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 against the mainland Chinese affiliates of the “Big Four” accounting firms (including the mainland Chinese affiliate of our independent registered public accounting firm). A first instance trial of the proceedings in July 2013 in the SEC’s internal administrative court resulted in an adverse judgment against the firms. The administrative law judge proposed penalties on the Chinese accounting firms including a temporary suspension of their right to practice before the SEC, although that proposed penalty did not take effect pending review by the Commissioners of the SEC. On February 6, 2015, before a review by the Commissioner had taken place, the Chinese accounting firms reached a settlement with the SEC whereby the proceedings were stayed. Under the settlement, the SEC accepted that future requests by the SEC for the production of documents would normally be made to the CSRC. The Chinese accounting firms would receive requests matching those under Section 106 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, and would be required to abide by a detailed set of procedures with respect to such requests, which in substance would require them to facilitate production via the CSRC. The CSRC for its part initiated a procedure whereby, under its supervision and subject to its approval, requested classes of documents held by the accounting firms could be sanitized of problematic and sensitive content so as to render them capable of being made available by the CSRC to US regulators.
Under the terms of the settlement, the underlying proceeding against the four PRC-based accounting firms was deemed dismissed with prejudice at the end of four years starting from the settlement date, which was on February 6, 2019. Despite the final ending of the proceedings, the presumption is that all parties will continue to apply the same procedures: i.e. the SEC will continue to make its requests for the production of documents to the CSRC, and the CSRC will normally process those requests applying the sanitization procedure. We cannot predict whether, in cases where the CSRC does not authorize production of requested documents to the SEC, the SEC will further challenge the four PRC-based accounting firms’ compliance with U.S. law. If additional challenges are imposed on the Chinese affiliates of the “big four” accounting firms, we could be unable to timely file future financial statements in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act.
In the event that the SEC restarts administrative proceedings, depending upon the final outcome, listed companies in the U.S. with major PRC operations may find it difficult or impossible to retain auditors in respect of their operations in the PRC, which could result in their financial statements being determined to not be in compliance with the requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, or the Exchange Act, including possible delisting. Moreover, any negative news about any such future proceedings against the firms may cause investor uncertainty regarding China-based, U.S.-listed companies and the market price of their shares may be adversely affected.
If our independent registered public accounting firm was denied, even temporarily, the ability to practice before the SEC and we were unable to timely find another registered public accounting firm to audit and issue an opinion on our financial statements, our financial statements could be determined not to be in compliance with the requirements of the Exchange Act. Such a determination could ultimately lead to the delisting of our common shares from Nasdaq, or deregistration from the SEC, or both, which would substantially reduce or effectively terminate the trading of our common shares in the U.S.
Logistical challenges, including global freight capacity shortages, port congestions or significant increases in freight costs, could continue to increase our selling costs or cause delays in our order fulfilment, and our business, financial condition and results of operations may be adversely affected.
Our ability to transport products to customers in a timely and cost-effective manner has been, and may continue to be, adversely affected by the current global shortage of freight capacity, delays at ports and other issues that otherwise affect third-party logistics service providers. For example, our shipping and handling costs relating to sales of $88.1 million, $134.2 million and $316.4 million, are included in selling and distribution expenses for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively. These issues could prevent the timely or proper delivery of products to customers or require us to locate alternative ports or warehousing providers to avoid disruption to customers, which may negatively impact our business prospects and relationship with customers. These interruptions and the availability of alternative transportation routes can be affected by the ability of the cargo vessel to call on or depart from ports on a timely basis or at all, rules and regulations applicable to the cargo industry, change in worldwide cargo fleet capacity, weather events, global and regional economic and political conditions, environmental and other regulatory developments. Our ability to plan our pricing strategy may be impacted and to the extent we are unable to pass along the increased costs to our customers, our financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
In addition, interruptions, failures or price increases in logistics services can result from events that are beyond our control, such as inclement weather, natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, other pandemics or epidemics, accidents, transportation disruptions, including special or temporary restrictions or closings of facilities or transportation networks due to regulatory or political reasons, or labor unrest or shortages.
Risks Related to Doing Business in China
The enforcement of the labor contract law and increases in labor costs in the PRC may adversely affect our business and our profitability.
The Labor Contract Law came into effect on January 1, 2008, and was later revised on December 28, 2012; the Implementation Rules was promulgated and became effective on September 18, 2008. The Labor Contract Law and the Implementation Rules imposed stringent requirements on employers with regard to executing written employment contracts, hiring temporary employees, dismissing employees, consultation with the labor union and employee assembly, compensation upon termination and overtime work, collective bargaining and labor dispatch business. In addition, under the Regulations on Paid Annual Leave for Employees, which came into effect on January 1, 2008, and their Implementation Measures, which were promulgated and became effective on September 18, 2008, employees who have served for more than one year with an employer are entitled to a paid vacation ranging from five to fifteen days, depending on their length of service, subject to certain exceptions. Employees who waive such vacation time at the request of the employer must be compensated for each vacation day waived at a rate equal to three times their normal daily salary, subject to certain exceptions. According to the Interim Provisions on Labor Dispatching, which came into effect on March 1, 2014, the number of dispatched workers used by an employer shall not exceed 10% of its total number of workers. In addition, according to the PRC Social Insurance Law promulgated in October 2010 and revised in 2018, effective as of December 29, 2018, employees shall participate in pension insurance, work-related injury insurance, medical insurance, unemployment insurance and maternity insurance and the employers shall, together with their employees or separately, pay for the social insurance premiums for such employees.
Furthermore, as the interpretation and implementation of these new laws and regulations are still evolving, we cannot assure you that our employment practice will at all times be deemed fully in compliance, which may cause us to face labor disputes or governmental investigation.
The increase or decrease in tax benefits from local tax bureau could affect our total PRC taxes payments, which could have a material and adverse impact on our financial condition and results of operations.
The Enterprise Income Tax Law, or the EIT Law, came into effect in China on January 1, 2008 and was amended on February 24, 2017 and December 29, 2018. Under the EIT Law, both foreign-invested enterprises and domestic enterprises are subject to a uniform enterprise income tax rate of 25%. The EIT Law provides for preferential tax treatment for certain categories of industries and projects that are strongly supported and encouraged by the state. For example, enterprises qualified as a “High and New Technology Enterprise,” or HNTE, are entitled to a 15% enterprise income tax rate provided that they satisfy other applicable statutory requirements. Further, enterprises which engage in businesses within the scope of the Catalogue of Encouraged Industries in Western Regions promulgated by the NDRC, or Western Catalogue, are entitled to a 15% enterprise income tax rate provided that such enterprises satisfy other applicable statutory requirements.
Certain of our PRC subsidiaries, such as CSI New Energy Holding Co., Ltd., or CSI New Energy Holding, Canadian Solar Manufacturing (Luoyang) Inc., or CSI Luoyang Manufacturing, were once HNTEs and enjoyed preferential enterprise income tax rates. These benefits have, however, expired. In 2021, only Suzhou Sanysolar Materials Technology Co., Ltd, Changshu Tegu New Material Technology Co., Ltd, CSI New Energy Development (Suzhou) Co., Ltd (formerly known as Suzhou Gaochuangte New Energy Development Co., Ltd), and Changshu Tlian Co., Ltd were HNTEs and enjoyed preferential enterprise income tax rates.
There are significant uncertainties regarding our tax liabilities with respect to our income under the EIT Law.
We are a Canadian company with a substantial portion of our manufacturing operations in China. Under the EIT Law and its implementation regulations, enterprises established outside China whose “de facto management body” is located in China are considered PRC tax resident enterprises and will generally be subject to the uniform 25% enterprise income tax rate on their global income. Under the implementation regulations, the term “de facto management body” is defined as substantial and overall management and control over aspects such as the production and business, personnel, accounts and properties of an enterprise. The Circular on Certain Issues Relating to the Identification of China-controlled Overseas-registered Enterprises as Resident Enterprises on the Basis of Actual Management Organization, or Circular 82, effective as of January 1, 2008, further provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a PRC-controlled offshore incorporated enterprise is located in the PRC. The criteria include whether (a) the premises where the senior management and the senior management bodies responsible for the routine production and business management of the enterprise perform their functions are mainly located within the PRC, (b) decisions relating to the enterprise’s financial and human resource matters are made or subject to approval by organizations or personnel in the PRC, (c) the enterprise’s primary assets, accounting books and records, company seals, and board and shareholders’ meeting minutes are located or maintained in the PRC and (d) 50% or more of voting board members or senior executives of the enterprise habitually reside in the PRC. Although Circular 82 only applies to offshore enterprises controlled by enterprises or enterprise groups located within the PRC, the determining criteria set forth in Circular 82 may reflect the tax authorities’ general position on how the “de facto management body” test may be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises. It is unclear under PRC tax law whether we have a “de facto management body” located in China for PRC tax purposes. As of the date of this annual report on Form 20-F, we have not been notified or informed by the PRC tax authorities that we are considered a PRC resident enterprise for the purpose of EIT Law. However, as the tax resident status of an enterprise is subject to the determination by the PRC tax authorities, uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body” as applicable to our offshore entities. Therefore, there is a risk that we and certain of our non-PRC subsidiaries may be treated as tax resident in the PRC.
Dividends paid by us to our non-PRC shareholders and gains on the sale of our common shares by our non-PRC shareholders may be subject to PRC enterprise income tax liabilities or individual income tax liabilities.
Under the EIT Law and its implementation regulations, dividends paid to a non-PRC investor are generally subject to a 10% PRC withholding tax, if such dividends are derived from sources within China and the non-PRC investor is considered to be a non-resident enterprise without any establishment or place within China or if the dividends paid have no connection with the non-PRC investor’s establishment or place within China, unless such tax is eliminated or reduced under an applicable tax treaty. Similarly, any gain realized on the transfer of shares by such investor is also subject to a 10% PRC withholding tax if such gain is regarded as income derived from sources within China, unless such tax is eliminated or reduced under an applicable tax treaty.
The implementation regulations of the EIT Law provide that (a) if the enterprise that distributes dividends is domiciled in the PRC, or (b) if gains are realized from transferring equity interests of enterprises domiciled in the PRC, then such dividends or capital gains shall be treated as China-sourced income.
Currently, there are no detailed rules applicable to us that govern the procedures and specific criteria for determining the meaning of being “domiciled” in the PRC. As a result, it is not clear how the concept of domicile will be interpreted under the EIT Law. Domicile may be interpreted as the jurisdiction where the enterprise is incorporated or where the enterprise is a tax resident. As a result, if we are considered a PRC “resident enterprise” for tax purposes, it is possible that the dividends we pay with respect to our common shares to non-PRC enterprises, or the gain non-PRC enterprises may realize from the transfer of our common shares or our convertible notes, would be treated as income derived from sources within China and be subject to the PRC tax at a rate of 10% (which in the case of dividends will be withheld at source). Given the resident enterprise status of CSI Solar and our current non-resident enterprise status for tax purposes, in accordance with EIT law and the treaty between China and Canada, if CSI Solar becomes a dividend paying company, 10% of its dividend will be withheld by the PRC.
Under the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Individual Income Tax, or the IIT Law, individual income tax is payable on PRC-source dividend income. The implementation regulations of the IIT Law provide that income from dividends derived from companies, enterprises and other economic organizations in China as well as income realized from transfer of properties in China is considered derived from sources inside China, regardless of whether the place of payment was inside China. Therefore, if we are treated as a PRC tax resident enterprise for purposes of the IIT Law, any dividends we pay to our non-PRC individual shareholders as well as any gains realized by our non-PRC individual shareholders or our non-PRC individual note holders from the transfer of our common shares or our convertible notes may be regarded as PRC-sourced income and, consequently, be subject to PRC tax at a rate of up to 20% (which in the case of dividends will be withheld at source).
Such PRC taxes may be reduced by an applicable tax treaty, but it is unclear whether in practice our non-PRC noteholders and shareholders would be able to obtain the benefits of any tax treaties between their country of tax residence and the PRC in the event that we are treated as a PRC resident enterprise.
The investment returns of our non-PRC investors may be materially and adversely affected if any dividends we pay, or any gains realized on a transfer of our common shares, are subject to PRC tax.
Restrictions on currency exchange may limit our ability to receive and use our revenues effectively.
Certain of our revenues and expenses are denominated in Renminbi. If our revenues denominated in Renminbi increase or our expenses denominated in Renminbi decrease in the future, we may need to convert a portion of our revenues into other currencies to meet our foreign currency obligations. Under China’s existing foreign exchange regulations, our PRC subsidiaries are able to pay dividends in foreign currencies without prior approval from the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, or SAFE, by complying with certain procedural requirements. However, we cannot assure you that the PRC government will not take further measures in the future to restrict access to foreign currencies for current account transactions.
Foreign exchange transactions by our PRC subsidiaries under most capital accounts continue to be subject to significant foreign exchange controls and require the approval of or registration with PRC governmental authorities. In particular, if we finance our PRC subsidiaries by means of additional capital contributions, the approval of or the record-filing with, certain government authorities, including the Ministry of Commerce or its local counterparts, is required. If our PRC subsidiaries obtain foreign debt through medium and long-term loan or through issuance of bonds, foreign debt approval may also be required to be obtained from the National Development and Reform Commission of PRC, or the NDRC. These limitations could affect the ability of our PRC subsidiaries to obtain foreign exchange through equity financing.
Uncertainties with respect to the Chinese legal system, as well as changes in any government policies, laws and regulations, could adversely affect the overall economy in China or our industry, which could harm our business.
We conduct a significant portion of our manufacturing operations through our subsidiaries in China. These subsidiaries are generally subject to laws and regulations applicable to foreign investment in China and, in particular, laws applicable to wholly foreign-owned enterprises and joint venture companies. The PRC legal system is based on written statutes. Prior court decisions may be cited for reference but have limited precedential value. Since 1979, PRC legislation and regulations have significantly enhanced the protections afforded to various forms of foreign investments in China. However, since these laws and regulations are relatively new and the PRC legal system is still developing, the implementation and enforcement of many laws, regulations and rules may be inconsistent and change quickly with little advance notice. which may limit legal protections available to us. In addition, any litigation in China may be protracted and may result in substantial costs and divert our resources and the attention of our management.
On March 15, 2019, the PRC National People’s Congress approved the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced the trio of existing laws regulating foreign investment in China, namely, the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law, and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law. On December 26, 2019, the PRC State Council approved the Implementation Rules of Foreign Investment Law, which came into effect on January 1, 2020 and replaced implementation rules and ancillary regulations of the Sino-foreign Equity Joint Venture Enterprise Law, the Sino-foreign Cooperative Joint Venture Enterprise Law, and the Wholly Foreign-invested Enterprise Law. The 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law and its Implementation Rules embody an expected PRC regulatory trend to rationalize its foreign investment regulatory regime in line with prevailing international practice and the legislative efforts to unify the corporate legal requirements for both foreign and domestic investments. However, since the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law is relatively new, substantial uncertainties exist with respect to its interpretation and implementation. The 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law specifies that foreign investments shall be conducted in line with the “negative list” and obtain relevant approval to be issued by or approved to be issued by the State Council from time to time. An FIE would not be allowed to make investments in prohibited industries in the “negative list,” while the FIE must satisfy certain conditions stipulated in the “negative list” for investment in restricted industries. It is uncertain whether the solar power industry, in which our subsidiaries operate, will be subject to the foreign investment restrictions or prohibitions set forth in the “negative list” to be issued in the future, although it is not subject to the foreign investment restrictions set forth in the currently effective 2021 Negative List. There are uncertainties as to how the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law and the Implementation Rules would be further interpreted and implemented. We cannot assure you that the interpretation and implementation of the 2019 PRC Foreign Investment Law made by the relevant governmental authorities in the future will not materially impact the viability of our current corporate structure, corporate governance and business operations in any aspect.
In addition, the PRC government has recently published new policies that significantly affected certain industries such as the education and internet industries. It may in the future release regulations or policies regarding the solar power industry that could adversely affect the business, financial condition and results of operations of us and our industry. Furthermore, the PRC government has recently indicated an intent to exert more oversight and control over overseas securities offerings and other capital markets activities and foreign investment in China-based companies. Future government actions in this regard may hinder our ability to offer securities to investors, and/or may affect the value of our common shares.
Any actions by the Chinese government, including any decision to intervene or influence the operations of our PRC subsidiaries or to exert control over any offering of securities conducted overseas, may cause us to make material changes to the operations of our PRC subsidiaries, may limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, and may cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or be worthless.
The Chinese government has exercised and continues to exercise substantial control over virtually every sector of the Chinese economy through regulation and state ownership. The ability of our subsidiaries to operate in China may be impaired by changes in its laws and regulations, including those relating to our industry, taxation, land use rights, foreign investment limitations, and other matters.
The central or local governments of China may impose new, stricter regulations or interpretations of existing regulations that would require additional expenditures and efforts on our part to ensure that our PRC subsidiaries comply with such regulations or interpretations. As such, our PRC subsidiaries may be subject to various government actions and regulatory interference in the provinces in which they operate. They could be subject to regulation by various political and regulatory entities, including various local and municipal agencies and government sub-divisions. They may incur increased costs necessary to comply with existing and newly adopted laws and regulations or penalties for any failure to comply.
Furthermore, it is uncertain when and whether we will be required to obtain permission from the PRC government to maintain our listing status on U.S. exchanges in the future, and even when such permission is obtained, whether it will be later denied or rescinded. On December 24, 2021, the CSRC issued the Provisions of the State Council on the Administration of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments) and the Administrative Measures for the Filing of Overseas Securities Offering and Listing by Domestic Companies (Draft for Comments), which propose to require PRC companies and their overseas special purpose vehicles to file with the CSRC and meet compliance rules for their listing in overseas markets. Although based on the drafts for comments, we believe that we are currently not required to obtain such permission from any Chinese authorities, and we have not received any notice of denial of permission to list on the U.S. exchange, we cannot assure you that the drafts for comments will not later be extended and formalized to govern our business activities, or relevant PRC government agencies, including the CSRC, would reach the same conclusion as we do based on the final drafts. If the CSRC or any other PRC regulatory body subsequently determines that we need to file with the CSRC or obtain the CSRC’s approval for any future offering of securities by us or if the CSRC or any other PRC government authorities promulgates any interpretation or implements rules that would require us to file with or obtain approvals of the CSRC or other governmental bodies for any such offering, we may face adverse actions or sanctions by the CSRC or other PRC regulatory agencies, which may include fines and penalties on our operations in China, limitations on our operating privileges in China, delays in or restrictions on the repatriation of the proceeds from any such offering into the PRC, restrictions on or prohibition of the payments or remittance of dividends by our subsidiaries in China, or other actions that could have a material and adverse effect on our business, reputation, financial condition, results of operations, prospects, as well as the trading price of the common shares. The CSRC or other PRC regulatory agencies may also take actions requiring us, or making it advisable for us, to halt any such offering before the settlement and delivery of the common shares that we may offer. Consequently, if you engage in market trading or other activities in anticipation of and prior to the settlement and delivery of the common shares we offer, you would be doing so at the risk that the settlement and delivery may not occur. In addition, if the CSRC or other regulatory agencies later promulgate new rules or explanations requiring that we file with them, or obtain their approvals or clearances for any such offering, we may be unable to obtain a waiver of such regulatory requirements.
Accordingly, government actions in the future, including any decision to intervene or influence the operations of our PRC subsidiaries at any time, or to exert control over an offering of securities conducted overseas and/or foreign investment in China-based issuers, may cause us to make material changes to the operations of our PRC subsidiaries, may limit or completely hinder our ability to offer or continue to offer securities to investors, and/or may cause the value of such securities to significantly decline or be worthless.
Failure to comply with governmental regulations and other legal obligations concerning data protection and cybersecurity may materially and adversely affect our business, as we routinely collect, store and use data during the conduct of our business.
We routinely collect, store and use data during our operations including but not limited to the demand and pricing of solar and battery storage products and electricity prices and forecasts, the location and capacity of our production plants, the operational and performance data of solar and battery projects that we provide services to or own, and the information related to our employees, customers and suppliers both in and out of China. We are subject to PRC laws and regulations governing the collecting, storing, sharing, using, processing, disclosure and protection of data on the Internet and mobile platforms as well as cybersecurity. These PRC laws apply not only to third-party transactions, but also to transfers of information between us and our subsidiaries in China, and other parties with which we have commercial relations. On December 28, 2021, the CAC announced the adoption of the Cybersecurity Review Measures, and effective February 15, 2022, online platforms and network providers possessing personal information of more than one million individual user must undergo a cybersecurity review by the CAC when they seek listing in foreign markets. The Measures provide that critical information infrastructure operators purchasing network products and services and data processors carrying out data processing activities, which affect or may affect national security, shall apply for cybersecurity review to the cyberspace administrations in accordance with the provisions thereunder.
On July 30, 2021, the PRC State Council promulgated the Regulations on Protection of Critical Information Infrastructure, which became effective on September 1, 2021. Pursuant to the Regulations on Protection of Critical Information Infrastructure, critical information infrastructure shall mean any important network facilities or information systems of an important industry or field, such as public communication and information service, energy, communications, water conservation, finance, public services, e-government affairs and national defense science, which may endanger national security, peoples’ livelihoods and public interest in the event of damage, function loss or data leakage. In addition, relevant administration departments of each critical industry and sector shall be responsible to formulate eligibility criteria and determine the critical information infrastructure operator in the respective industry or sector. The operators shall be informed about the final determination as to whether they are categorized as critical information infrastructure operators. Among these industries, the energy and telecommunications industries ae mandated to take measures to provide key assurances for the safe operation of critical information infrastructure in other industries and fields.
Furthermore, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the Personal Information Protection Law of the PRC, which became effective from November 1, 2021 and requires personal information processing operators, among other regulatory requirements, to obtain a personal information protection certification issued by recognized institutions in accordance with the CAC regulation before such personal information can be transferred out of China.
As of the date of this annual report, we have not been informed that we are identified as a critical information infrastructure operator by any governmental authorities. We will closely monitor the relevant regulatory environment and will assess and determine whether we are required to apply for the cybersecurity review with the advice of our PRC counsel that we are fully compliant with the regulations or policies that have been issued by the CAC to date.
Risks Related to Our Common Shares
We may issue additional common shares, other equity or equity-linked debt securities, which may materially and adversely affect the price of our common shares.
We may issue additional equity, equity-linked debt securities for a number of reasons, including to finance our operations and business strategy (including in connection with acquisitions, strategic collaborations or other transactions), to satisfy our obligations for the repayment of existing indebtedness, to adjust our ratio of debt to equity, to satisfy our obligations upon the exercise of outstanding warrants or options or for other reasons. For example, in 2020, we issued $230.0 million of convertible notes. Any future issuances of equity securities or equity-linked debt securities could substantially dilute the interests of our existing shareholders and may materially and adversely affect the price of our common shares. We cannot predict the timing or size of any future issuances or sales of equity, equity-linked or debt securities, or the effect, if any, that such issuances or sales, may have on the market price of our common shares. Market conditions could require us to accept less favorable terms for the issuance of our securities in the future.
The market price for our common shares may be volatile.
The market price for our common shares has been highly volatile and subject to wide fluctuations. During the period from November 9, 2006, the first day on which our common shares were listed on Nasdaq, until December 31, 2020, the market price of our common shares ranged from $1.95 to $56.42 per share. From January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, the market price of our common shares ranged from $28.80 to $67.39 per share. The closing market price of our common shares on December 31, 2021 was $31.29 per share. The market price of our common shares may continue to be volatile and subject to wide fluctuations in response to a wide variety of factors, including the following:
|●||announcements of technological or competitive developments;|
|●||regulatory developments in our target markets affecting us, our customers or our competitors;|
|●||actual, projected or anticipated fluctuations in our quarterly operating results;|
|●||changes in financial estimates by securities research analysts;|
|●||changes in the economic performance or market valuations of other solar power companies;|
|●||changes in the volume or quality of our solar and battery storage project pipeline, and retained assets;|
|●||the departure of executive officers and key research personnel;|
|●||patent litigation and other intellectual property disputes;|
|●||litigation and other disputes with our long-term suppliers;|
|●||fluctuations in the exchange rates between the U.S. dollars, Renminbi, Canadian dollars, Japanese yen, Euros, Brazilian reals, South African rand and Thai baht;|
|●||the release or expiration of lock-up or other transfer restrictions on our outstanding common shares;|
|●||sales or anticipated sales of additional common shares;|
|●||share repurchase program; and|
|●||the success, or the lack thereof, in the completion of the STAR Listing.|
In addition, the securities market has from time to time experienced significant price and volume fluctuations that are not related to the operating performance of particular companies. These market fluctuations may also have a material and adverse effect on the price of our common shares. Particularly, concerns over economic slowdown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemics have triggered a U.S. key market-wide circuit breaker for several times since March 9, 2020, leading to a historic drop for the U.S. capital market. No guarantee can be given on how the capital markets will react even though actions have been taken worldwide to combat the spread of the COVID-19. These market fluctuations may also have a material adverse effect on the market price of our common shares. In the past, following periods of volatility in the market price of their stock, many companies have been the subject of securities class action litigation. If we become involved in similar securities class action litigation in the future, it could result in substantial costs and diversion of our management’s attention and resources and could harm our stock price, business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Substantial future sales of our common shares in the public market, or the perception that such sales could occur, could cause the price of our common shares to decline.
Sales of our common shares in the public market, or the perception that such sales could occur, could cause the market price of our common shares to decline. As of December 31, 2021, we had 64,022,678 common shares outstanding. The number of common shares outstanding and available for sale will increase when our employees and former employees who are holders of options to acquire our common shares become entitled to the underlying shares under the terms of their options. In the past, in connection with debt financing, we have issued warrants and convertible notes, and may issue additional warrants to purchase our common shares and convertible notes that can be converted to our common shares. In 2020, we issued $230.0 million of convertible notes. From May to November 2021, we conducted an “at-the-market” offering program of common shares on the Nasdaq, through which we sold 3,639,918 of our common shares and raised $150.0 million in gross proceeds before deducting commissions and offering expenses. To the extent these warrants and conversion features are exercised and/or the common shares are sold into the market, the market price of our common shares could decline.
Your right to participate in any future rights offerings may be limited, which may cause dilution to your holdings.
We may from time to time distribute rights to our shareholders, including rights to acquire our securities. However, we cannot make these rights available in the U.S. unless we register the rights and the securities to which the rights relate under the Securities Act of 1933, or the Securities Act, or an exemption from the registration requirements is available. We are under no obligation to file a registration statement with respect to any such rights or securities or to endeavor to cause a registration statement to be declared effective. Moreover, we may not be able to establish an exemption from registration under the Securities Act. Accordingly, you may be unable to participate in our rights offerings and may experience dilution in your holdings.
Our articles contain certain provisions that could adversely affect the rights of holders of our common shares.
The following provisions in our articles may deprive our shareholders of the opportunity to sell their shares at a premium over the prevailing market price by delaying or preventing a change of control of our company:
|●||Our board of directors has the authority, without approval from the shareholders, to issue an unlimited number of preferred shares in one or more series. Subject to the BCBCA, our board of directors may, if none of the shares of that particular series are issued, establish the number of shares to be included in each such series and may fix the designations, preferences, powers and other rights of the shares of a series of preferred shares.|
|●||In accordance with the provisions of the BCBCA, our articles provide that the number of directors on our board of directors is set at the greater of three directors and such number of directors equal to the number of directors most recently elected by ordinary resolution at a meeting of shareholders. However, our articles also provide that between annual meetings of shareholders, our board of directors may appoint one or more additional directors, subject to the limitation that the total number of directors so appointed may not exceed one-third of the number of the current directors who were elected other than under this provision of our articles. Any director so appointed ceases to hold office immediately before the election of directors at the next annual meeting of shareholders but is eligible for re-election.|
You may have difficulty enforcing judgments obtained against us.
We are a corporation organized under the laws of British Columbia, Canada and a substantial portion of our assets are located outside of the U.S. A substantial portion of our current business operations is conducted in the PRC. In addition, a majority of our directors and officers are nationals and residents of countries other than the U.S. and a substantial portion of the assets of these persons are located outside the U.S. As a result, it may be difficult for you to effect service of process within the U.S. upon these persons. It may also be difficult for you to enforce judgments obtained in U.S. courts based on the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws against us and our officers and directors. In addition, there is uncertainty as to whether the courts of Canada or the PRC would recognize or enforce judgments of U.S. courts against us or such persons predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the securities laws of the U.S. or any state. In addition, it is uncertain whether such Canadian or PRC courts would be competent to hear original actions brought in Canada or the PRC against us or such persons predicated upon the securities laws of the U.S. or any state.
If a United States person is treated as owning at least 10% of our shares, such person may be subject to adverse United States federal income tax consequences.
If a United States person is treated as owning (directly, indirectly or constructively) at least 10% of the value or voting power of our shares, such person may be treated as a “United States shareholder” with respect to each “controlled foreign corporation,” or CFC, in our group. Where our group includes one or more United States subsidiaries that are corporations for United States federal income tax purposes, in certain circumstances we could be treated as a CFC and certain of our non-United States subsidiaries could be treated as CFCs (regardless of whether or not we are treated as a CFC).
A United States shareholder of a CFC may be required to annually report and include in its United States taxable income its pro rata share of “Subpart F income,” “global intangible low-taxed income” and investments in United States property by CFCs, whether or not we make any distributions. An individual who is a United States shareholder with respect to a CFC generally would not be allowed certain tax deductions or foreign tax credits that would be allowed to a corporation that is a United States shareholder. A failure to comply with these reporting obligations may subject a United States shareholder to significant monetary penalties and may prevent starting of the statute of limitations with respect to such shareholder’s United States federal income tax return for the year for which reporting was due. We do not intend to monitor whether we are or any of our non-United States subsidiaries is treated as a CFC or whether any investor is treated as a United States shareholder with respect to us or any of our CFC subsidiaries, or to furnish to any United States shareholders information that may be necessary to comply with the aforementioned reporting and tax paying obligations. A United States investor should consult its tax advisor regarding the potential application of these rules in its particular circumstances.
We may be classified as a passive foreign investment company, which could result in adverse United States federal income tax consequences to United States Holders of our common shares.
We will be a passive foreign investment company, or PFIC, for United States federal income tax purposes for any taxable year if, applying applicable look-through rules, either (a) at least 75% of our gross income for such year is passive income or (b) at least 50% of the value of our assets (generally determined based on an average of the quarterly values of the assets) during such year is attributable to assets that produce or are held for the production of passive income. Based on the value of our assets and the nature and composition of our income and assets, we do not believe we were a PFIC for United States federal income tax purposes for our taxable year ended December 31, 2021. PFIC status is based on an annual determination that cannot be made until the close of a taxable year, involves extensive factual investigation, including ascertaining the fair market value of all of our assets on a quarterly basis and the character of each item of income that we earn, and is subject to uncertainty in several respects. Moreover, we cannot guarantee that the United States Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, will agree with any positions that we take. Accordingly, we cannot assure you that we will not be treated as a PFIC for any taxable year or that the IRS will not take a position contrary to any position that we take.
Changes in the nature or composition of our income or assets may cause us to be more likely to be a PFIC. The determination of whether we are a PFIC for any taxable year may also depend in part upon the value of our goodwill and other unbooked intangibles not reflected on our balance sheet (which may depend upon the market value of our common shares from time to time, which may be volatile) and also may be affected by how, and how quickly, we spend our liquid assets and cash generated from our operations. Among other matters, if our market capitalization declines, we may be more likely to be a PFIC because our liquid assets and cash (which are for this purpose considered assets that produce passive income) may then represent a greater percentage of the value of our overall assets. Further, while we believe our classification methodology and valuation approach are reasonable, it is possible that the IRS may challenge our classification or valuation of our goodwill and other unbooked intangibles, which may result in our being or becoming a PFIC for the current taxable year or one or more future taxable years.
If we are a PFIC for any taxable year during which a United States Holder (as defined in “Item 10. Additional Information-E. Taxation-United States Federal Income Taxation”) holds our common shares, certain adverse United States federal income tax consequences would generally apply to such United States Holder. See “Item 10. Additional Information—E. Taxation-United States Federal Income Taxation—Passive Foreign Investment Company.”
ITEM 4 INFORMATION ON THE COMPANY
|A||History and Development of the Company|
Our legal and commercial name is Canadian Solar Inc. We were incorporated under the laws of the Province of Ontario, Canada in October 2001. We changed our jurisdiction by continuing under the Canadian federal corporate statute, the Canada Business Corporations Act, effective June 1, 2006. In July 2020, we filed articles of continuance to change our jurisdiction from the federal jurisdiction of Canada to the provincial jurisdiction of the Province of British Columbia. As a result, we are governed by the British Columbia Business Corporation Act, or the BCBCA, and our affairs are governed by our notice of articles and our articles. See “—C. Organizational Structure” for additional information on our corporate structure, including a list of our significant subsidiaries.
Our principal executive office and principal place of business is located at 545 Speedvale Avenue West, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1K 1E6. Our telephone number at this address is (1-519) 837-1881 and our fax number is (1-519) 837-2550. Our agent for service of process in the United States is CT Corporation System, located at 111 Eighth Avenue, New York, New York 10011.
All inquiries to us should be directed at the address and telephone number of our principal executive office set forth above. Our website is www.canadiansolar.com. The information contained on or accessible through our website does not form part of this annual report.
We are one of the world’s largest solar power and battery storage companies and a leading vertically-integrated provider of solar power and battery storage products, services and system solutions with operations in North America, South America, Europe, South Africa, the Middle East, Australia and Asia. Our business operations are divided into two business segments, namely CSI Solar and Global Energy.
Under CSI Solar, we design, develop and manufacture solar ingots, wafers, cells, modules and other solar power and battery storage products. Our solar power products include standard solar modules and specialty solar products. We conduct most of our manufacturing operations in China and Southeast Asia. Our products include a range of solar modules built to general specifications for use in a wide range of residential, commercial and industrial solar power generation systems. Specialty solar products consist of customized solar modules that our customers incorporate into their own products and complete specialty products, such as portable solar home systems. We sell our products primarily under our “Canadian Solar” brand name. We also deliver bankable, end-to-end, turnkey battery storage system solutions across various applications. These storage system solutions are complemented with long-term service agreements which include future battery capacity augmentation services. In 2021, we started designing and developing proprietary DC battery storage systems, including battery modules and packs. We expect to launch and manufacture these products from 2022 onwards.
Our Global Energy segment primarily comprises solar and battery storage project development and sale, O&M and asset management services for operational projects, sale of electricity, and investment in retained assets. Our monetization strategies vary between develop-to-sell, build-to-sell, and partial build-to-own, depending on business strategies and market conditions, with the goal of maximizing profits, accelerating cash return, minimizing capital risk, and building recurring income. While we plan to continue to monetize our current portfolio, we also intend to grow our energy business by building up our project pipeline. In 2015, we acquired Recurrent Energy, LLC, or Recurrent, a leading solar energy developer, and thereby significantly increased our presence in the United States. As of January 31, 2022, our project backlog, which refers to late-stage projects that have passed their Cliff Risk Date and are expected to be built in the next one to four years, totaled approximately 4.2 gigawatt peak, or GWp, with 509 megawatt peak, or MWp, in North America, 2,435 MWp in Latin America, 363 MWp in Asia Pacific excluding China, 294 MWp in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (“EMEA”) and 550 MWp in China. A project’s Cliff Risk Date is the date on which the project passes the last high-risk development stage and varies depending on the country where it is located. This is usually after the projects have received all the required environmental and regulatory approvals, and entered into interconnection agreements, FIT arrangements and PPAs. Over 90% of projects in backlog are contracted (i.e., have secured a PPA or FIT), and the remaining are reasonably assured of securing PPAs. As of January 31, 2022, our project pipeline totaled 18.6 GW. In addition to our project backlog and project pipeline, as of January 31, 2022, we had 1,622 MWp of solar projects in construction; and a portfolio of solar projects in operation totaling 445 MWp with an estimated resale value of approximately $260.0 million. As of January 31, 2022, our battery storage project pipeline totaled 23.6 GWh, 841 MWh of backlog and 2,681 MWh in construction. As of January 31, 2022, our battery storage solutions pipeline totaled 3.6 GWh, 390 MWh in high probability forecast, and 2,043 MWh contracted or in construction, and 300 MWh under long term service agreement (“LTSA”). LTSA projects are operational battery storage projects delivered by CSI Solar that are under multi-year long-term service agreements and generate recurring earnings. Contracted/in construction projects are expected to be delivered within the next 12 to 18 months. Forecast projects include those that have more than 75% probability of being contracted within the next 12 months, and the remaining pipeline includes projects that have been identified but have a below 75% probability of being contracted. See “—Sales, Marketing and Customers—Global Energy Segment—Solar Project Development” and “—Sales, Marketing and Customers—Global Energy Segment—Operating Solar Power Plants and Sale of Electricity” for a description of the status of our solar and battery storage projects in operation.
We believe that we offer one of the broadest crystalline silicon solar power product lines in the industry. Our product lines range from modules of medium power output to high efficiency, high-power output multi-crystalline and mono-crystalline modules, as well as a range of specialty products. We currently sell our solar power and battery storage products to a diverse customer base in various markets worldwide, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, South Africa, China, Japan, India, Thailand, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. Our customers are primarily distributors, system integrators, project developers and installers/EPC companies.
We employ a flexible vertically integrated business model that combines internal manufacturing capacity with direct material purchases of both cells and wafers. We believe this approach has benefited us by allowing us to grow in a capital-light manner, while giving us significant flexibility to respond to short-term demand changes.
As of December 31, 2021, we had:
|●||23.9 GW of total annual solar module manufacturing capacity, approximately 19.7 GW of which is located in China, 4.2 GW in Southeast Asia and the rest in other regions;|
|●||13.9 GW of total annual solar cell manufacturing capacity, approximately 4.2 GW of which is located in Southeast Asia and the rest in China;|
|●||11.5 GW of total annual wafer manufacturing capacity located in China; and|
|●||5.4 GW of total annual ingot manufacturing capacity located in China.|
We intend to use substantially all of the silicon wafers that we manufacture to supply our own solar cell plants and to use substantially all of the solar cells that we manufacture to produce our own solar module products. We also intend to use some of the solar modules we produce in our solar projects. Our solar module manufacturing costs in China, including purchased polysilicon, wafers and cells, increased from 18.8 cents per watt in December 2019 to 21.9 cents per watt in December 2020, and increased to 25.2 cents per watt in December 2021. Despite the recent increase mainly driven by higher material costs, we expect to continue to decrease the manufacturing costs for our production of wafers, cells and modules in the long run.
We intend to continue to focus on reducing our manufacturing costs by improving solar cell conversion efficiency, enhancing manufacturing yields and reducing raw material costs.
Our Products and Services
Our business consists of the following two business segments: CSI Solar segment and Global Energy segment. Our CSI Solar Segment involves the design, development, manufacturing and sale of a wide range of solar power and battery storage products, including solar modules, solar system kits, battery storage solutions, and other materials, components and services (including EPC). Our Global Energy Segment primarily consists of global solar and battery storage projects, O&M and asset management services, global electricity revenue, as well as other development services.
Products Offered in Our CSI Solar Segment
Standard Solar Modules
Our standard solar modules are arrays of interconnected solar cells in weatherproof encapsulation. We produce a wide variety of standard solar modules, ranging from 3W to over 665W in power and using mono-crystalline or multi-crystalline cells in several different design patterns, including shingled cells. We introduced the industry’s first module product using 166 mm wafers, in comparison with the conventional 156.75 mm wafers. We also first introduced the highest power 665W module using 210 mm wafers in mass production. Our mainstream solar modules include CS7N (132 half-cells, 210 mm wafer), CS7L (120 half-cells, 210 mm wafer), CS6W (144 half-cells, 182 mm wafer), CS6R (108 half-cells, 182 mm wafer), CS3Y (156 half-cells, 166 mm wafer), CS3W (144 half-cells, 166 mm wafer), CS3N (132 half-cells, 166 mm wafer), CS3L (120 half-cells, 166 mm wafer), BiHiKu7 (bifacial module, 210 mm wafer), BiHiKu6 (bifacial module, 182 mm wafer), BiHiKu5 (bifacial module, 166 mm wafer), BiHiKu (bifacial module, 166 mm wafer), and HiDM CS1Y all-black modules. The mainstream modules are designed for residential, commercial and utility applications. The small modules are for specialty applications.
We launched our Quartech modules in March 2013. Quartech modules use 4-busbar solar cell technology which improves module reliability and efficiency. CS6P (6 × 10 cell layout) Quartech modules have power output between 255 W and 270 W, which enables us to offer customers modules with high power. We launched and started shipping Dymond modules in October 2014. Dymond modules are designed with double-glass encapsulation, which is more reliable for harsh environments and ready for 1500V solar systems.
We launched and started shipping SmartDC modules in September 2015. SmartDC modules feature an innovative integration of our module technology and power optimization for grid-tied PV applications. By replacing the traditional junction-box, SmartDC modules eliminate module power mismatch, mitigate shading losses and optimize power output at module-level. SmartDC modules also provide module-level data to minimize operational costs and to permit effective system management.
In March 2016, we launched our new Quintech SuperPower mono-crystalline modules. Quintech SuperPower mono-crystalline modules are made of cells with PERC technology and significantly improve module efficiency and reliability. CS6K (6 × 10 cell layout aligned with mainstream dimensions) Quintech SuperPower mono modules have a power output between 285 W and 300 W with high efficiency and high reliability. We started commercial production of Quintech CS6K and CS6U modules in 2016. These modules have features such as 5 busbar cells, standardized module dimensions and cell and module improvements, resulting in higher wattage production and better performance. These modules are intended for broad base introduction, which covers mono-crystalline cells, multi-crystalline cells and mono-crystalline PERC cells.
At the beginning of 2015, we started commercial production of Onyx cells with our in-house developed black silicon technology, Onyx technology. Onyx technology employs a nano-texturing process to make the multi-crystalline cell almost fully black, increasing cell efficiency and module wattage at the same time. We started increasing the production volume of Onyx cells in 2016, which have been incorporated into our Quartech and Quintech module families.
In July 2016, we launched the 1500V System Voltage crystalline solar module portfolio. The 1500V System Voltage crystalline module provides a robust and cost-efficient system solution by adding more modules in a string, which decreases the number of combiner boxes, direct current homeruns and trenching. This unique product design improves the overall system performance and efficiency and reduces labor cost and installation time.
In 2017, we launched the Ku module series which results in an improvement in failure redundancy with innovative cell matrix interconnection technology. The module power output is enhanced by up to 10 Watt per module while reducing the module working temperature. We developed P4 cell technology, which is multi-crystalline PERC technology. The combination of P4 cell and Ku module technologies enable us to offer customer higher wattage and more reliable multi crystalline module products. We also launched and shipped High Density Module (“HDM”) product to some markets this year. The HDM offers high wattage, high module efficiency and pleasant aesthetics for residential applications.
In 2018, we launched the BiKu modules which are bifacial designed and can generate additional electricity from the backside of the module. These modules have more shading tolerance and a much lower hot spot risk thanks to the innovative design on the bifacial cell and double glass module. At the end of 2018, we began the mass production of the HiKu module, the first commercially available multi-crystalline module exceeding 400 watts with significant leveraged cost of energy, or LCOE, advantages. In 2018, we launched the HiDM module, which is an upgrade of the HDM module and uses shingled cells to increase both module wattage and efficiency. We also launched P5 technology, which is based on casted mono technology developed in house, and will boost cell and module efficiencies close to mono while retaining all the advantages of multi technology, such as LID, LeTID and lower cost.
In 2019, we continued to expand our high-power module product portfolio based on 166 mm wafers. In July 2019, we started to mass-produce BiHiku modules. BiHiKu is a bifacial module utilizing our 166 mm P4 (multi PERC) cells which have a front side power output exceeding 400 watts. In addition to modules utilizing our 166 mm P4 (multi PERC) cells, we launched HiKu and BiHiKu modules using 166 mm P5 (casted mono) and mono PERC cells. Our CS3L (120 half-cells, 166 mm wafer) mono PERC modules can achieve power output exceeding 360 watts, which is suited for residential applications, and our CS3W (144 half-cells, 166 mm wafer) mono modules can reach wattage up to 445 watts. By the end of August 2019, we converted 100% of our cell production capacity into PERC and by the end of the year, over one-third of our module capacity was for HiKu and BiHiKu. Our 166 mm wafer module products are becoming our new “standard” products. For the residential market, we ramped up the all-black version of our HiDM module with appealing aesthetics and high module efficiency. Our full-cell modules such as CS6K and CS6U are gradually being phased out and replaced by Ku, BiKu and HiDM modules. In 2019, we also officially phased out all the double glass mono-facial modules due to the introduction of the more competitive bifacial modules.
In 2020, we continued to launch high power modules using bigger wafers. In July 2020, we introduced CS3Y (156 half-cells, 166 mm wafer) module to the market. The power wattage of the HiKu series modules is further enhanced to 490W to accommodate the needs of our customers. Several new technologies were first used in this new module and were further used in the HiKu6 and HiKu7 modules launched later. Smaller gap between cells brings the blank area down by 70% on the module surface, and helps to increase the module efficiency by 0.3%. Hetero ribbon (“HTR”) and flexible welding process further facilitates the smart interconnection without causing additional microcracks, especially on bigger modules. In November 2020, we began mass production of CS6W (144 half-cells, 182 mm wafer) module. The module power of CS6W is up to 550W. HiKu7, the power module with the highest power output, was then brought to market in December 2020, including HiKu7L (120 half-cells, 210 mm wafer), and HiKu7N (132 half-cells, 210 mm wafer). The module power of HiKu7L reaches 595W while HiKu7N reaches 665W, the highest power output in the market. 210 mm wafer based modules HiKu7 will be our standard offering in the coming years. For the residential market, we brought HiDM-all black modules and HiKu3L-all black module with appealing aesthetics to our customers. We also introduced HiKu-Lite module with less weight for loading-limited installation locations. We are among the first few companies to supply light weight modules in Japan.
In 2021, our HiKu6 (182 mm wafers) and HiKu7 (210 mm wafers) series modules, introduced in late 2020, were accepted and welcomed by market quickly, and we expanded their manufacturing capacity accordingly. We invested in a research and production pilot line for Heterojunction (“HJT”) solar cells and modules, which uses in-house developed N-type mono-silicon ingots and wafers. Based on our high efficiency HJT cells developed in-house, our module family see a new member, 6R-H-AG (108 half-cells, 182 mm wafer), which is designed for residential market with module power high up to 440W. To satisfy residential clients who frequently see strong wind loads, we have developed and offered one mechanically enhanced version of CS3N (132 half-cells, 166 mm wafer) in 2021. Also, as modules with larger wafers (both 182 mm and 210 mm) were gaining market share quickly, we started to develop CS6R (108 half-cells, PERC technology, 182 mm wafers) for global residential market in 2021. CS6R modules have power up to 420W and will be available for our residential clients beginning 2022. Furthermore, we embarked on the development of N-type wafer-based modules with TOPCon technology. Our in-house TOPCon manufacturing capability will be integrated from N-type ingot growth, wafering, cells to modules. Our TOPCon modules are expected to be commercially available in 2022.
Our standard solar modules are designed to endure harsh weather conditions and to be transported and installed easily. We sell most of our standard solar modules under our brand name.
Battery Storage Solutions
Our battery storage offering includes proprietary products, technology and integrated solutions focused on delivering high performance, safe and reliable battery storage solutions to enable utilities, independent power producers, and energy investors and users achieve energy savings, while maintaining power reliability and resilience. Our battery storage solutions are utilized across the various market sectors, including high voltage grid scale, commercial and industrial business, and residential homes. Battery storage helps to provide the balance of energy delivery with energy consumed, including absorption of excess energy in the systems and release for when it is needed.
Battery storage demand is growing for various utility grid opportunities and applications including energy arbitrage, reserve capacity, flexible peaking and resource adequacy, as well as grid frequency regulation and voltage control. We have successfully introduced our high-energy and high-power storage power block with integrated lithium-ion phosphate batteries designed to meet market demand for 1 to 4 hours of battery storage duration. Our turn-key offering includes the integrated battery, power conversion systems and the energy management system. We also offer comprehensive services and capabilities with these project installations, including consulting and project engineering, procurement, and construction (“EPC”) management.
Furthermore, we support our installed projects using our capabilities to offer contracted long term services contract commitments that include operation and maintenance, capacity augmentation, guarantee, warranty, and other services throughout the operational phase of the projects.
In the commercial, industrial, and residential sector we offer “ready-to-install” system kits, which includes PV panel, hybrid inverter, PCS, battery pack, system monitoring platform and other system accessories, to give our customers one-stop procurement and service experience.
To leverage our significant growth and advancement into the global battery storage market, we are investing significantly into our developing our own battery storage proprietary products, technologies, and manufacturing. We have committed to deployment of our own lithium iron phosphate battery solutions for utility grid scale and residential markets. This is supported by our continuing investment into software technology like battery management systems, battery modules development, grid scale battery storage blocks and residential storage battery solutions.
Solar System Kits
A solar system kit is a ready-to-install package consisting of solar modules produced by us and components, such as inverters, racking system and other accessories, supplied by third parties. We began selling solar system kits in 2010. In 2021, we sold them primarily to customers in Brazil, Japan and China.
Our EPC services is a complete turn-key solutions for utility scale PV projects, including system design, procurement, installation, system testing and commissioning.
We provide EPC services in China to ground-mounted projects, as well as to large-scale distributed system projects of industrial and commercial customers.
Products and Services Offered in Our Global Energy Segment
Solar and Battery Storage Project Development and Sale
We develop, build and sell solar and battery storage projects. Our solar project development activities have grown over the past several years through a combination of organic growth and acquisitions. Our global solar and battery storage project business develops projects primarily in Canada, the U.S., Japan, China, the EU, the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Australia and Korea. We have a team of experts who specialize in project development, evaluations, system designs, engineering, managing, project coordination and organizing financing. Our battery storage project development is fully integrated within the main solar development teams. Given the segment’s large and growing pipeline, we are uniquely positioned to capture utility-scale battery storage projects, both co-located with solar PV as well as stand-alone opportunities.
Our project sales team actively identifies and pursues suitable buyers for our solar and battery storage projects. See “—Sales, Marketing and Customers- Global Energy Segment—Solar Project Development” for a description of the status of our solar and battery storage projects.
Operating Solar Power Plants and Sale of Electricity
We operate certain of our solar plants and generate income from the sale of electricity. Although most of our solar power projects are developed for sale, we may operate them for a period of time before they are sold. We have been optimizing our operating model to increasingly retaining minority ownership interest in our own projects. As of January 31, 2022, we had a fleet of solar power plants in operation with an aggregate gross capacity of approximately 445 MWp. Certain of these plants were co-owned with third parties.
In 2021, we provided O&M services primarily in North America, Japan and Australia. O&M services include monitoring, inspections, repair and replacement of plant equipment and site management and administrative support services for solar projects in operation. We have deployed a number of unique technologies including semi-automated module washing, autonomous vegetation management, machine learning technologies in predictive maintenance and drone inspection. We continue to invest in developing these technologies and other areas of our service offering.
Asset Management Services
In 2021, we provided asset management services primarily in North America and Japan.
We recently began establishing investment funds for the purpose of pooling capital to develop, build and accumulate solar projects. For example, we established JGIF in 2020 by partnering with a business unit of Macquarie Group, who holds a minority interest in JGIF. JGIF has secured JPY22 billion ($213.2 million) of committed capital that will be used to develop, build and accumulate new solar projects in Japan. A new CSFS Fund I, a closed-ended alternative investment fund of a similar nature to CSIF, has been established in Italy and we intend to contribute new projects in 2022 and market to third party investors. Once the projects are acquired, we expect to contract with the fund to provide asset management services.
Supply Chain Management
CSI Solar Segment
Our CSI Solar segment depends on our ability to obtain a stable and cost-effective supply of polysilicon, solar ingots, wafers and cells. Our silicon wafer agreements set forth price and quantity information, delivery terms and technical specifications. While these agreements usually set forth specific price terms, most of them also include mechanisms to adjust the prices, either upwards or downwards, based on market conditions. Over the years, we have entered into a number of long-term supply agreements with various silicon and wafer suppliers in order to secure a stable supply of raw materials to meet our production requirements. Under our supply agreements with certain suppliers, and consistent with historical industry practice, we make advance payments prior to scheduled delivery dates. These advance payments are made without collateral and are credited against the purchase prices payable by us. In 2021, we purchased a significant portion of the silicon raw materials used in our solar modules from third parties. Our largest silicon raw material supplier was Hongyuan, with whom we have monocrystalline square silicon ingots purchase agreement through 2022. Our largest silicon wafer supplier was Longi. We plan to continue to diversify our external wafer and polysilicon suppliers.
We purchase solar cells from a number of international and local suppliers primarily in China, in addition to manufacturing our own solar cells and having toll manufacturing arrangements with our solar cell suppliers. Our solar cell agreements set forth price and quantity information, delivery terms and technical specifications. These agreements generally provide for a period of time during which we can inspect the product and request the seller to make replacements for damaged goods. We generally require the seller to bear the costs and risks of transporting solar cells until they have been delivered to the location specified in the agreement. In 2021, our largest supplier of solar cells was Tongwei Solar. As we expand our business, we expect to increase our solar cell manufacturing capacity and diversify our solar cell supply channel to ensure we have the flexibility to adapt to future changes in the supply of, and demand for, solar cells.
For risks relating to the long-term agreements with our raw material suppliers, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Company and Our Industry—Long-term supply agreements may make it difficult for us to adjust our raw material costs should prices decrease. Also, if we terminate any of these agreements, we may not be able to recover all or any part of the advance payments we have made to these suppliers and we may be subject to litigation.”
Global Energy Segment
Our CSI Solar segment supplies part of the solar modules used in our Global Energy segment. We leverage on our scale of operations and have increasingly consolidated our procurement operations. With centralized procurement, we believe we are able to secure more competitive arrangements with our major suppliers, thereby enhancing our ability to complete on cost given the large procurement quantities.
Manufacturing, Construction and Operation
CSI Solar Segment
We assemble our solar modules by interconnecting multiple solar cells by tabbing and stringing them into a desired electrical configuration. We lay the interconnected cells, laminate them in a vacuum, cure them by heating and package them in a protective lightweight anodized aluminum frame. We seal and weatherproof our solar modules to withstand high levels of ultraviolet radiation, moisture and extreme temperatures.
We selectively use automated equipment to enhance the quality and consistency of our finished products and to improve the efficiency of our manufacturing processes. Key equipment in our manufacturing process includes automatic laminators, simulators and solar cell testers. The design of our assembly lines provides flexibility to adjust the ratio of automated equipment to skilled labor in order to maximize quality and efficiency.
Global Energy Segment
We develop, construct, maintain, sell and/or operate solar and battery storage projects primarily in Canada, the U.S., Japan, China, the EU, the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Australia and Korea. We engage in all aspects of the development and operation of solar and battery storage projects, including project selection, design, permitting, engineering, procurement, construction, installation, monitoring, operation and maintenance. For the solar and battery storage projects that we develop, we have the option of either using our own engineering and operation teams or hiring third-party contractors to build and operate the projects prior to sale.
Our solar and battery storage projects development process primarily consists of the following stages:
|●||Market due diligence and project selection. We search for project opportunities globally with the goal of maintaining a robust and geographically diversified project portfolio. Our business team closely monitors the global solar and battery storage projects market and gathers market intelligence to identify project development opportunities. Our development team prepares market analysis reports, financial models and feasibility studies to guide us in evaluating and selecting solar and battery storage projects. As we consider undertaking new solar and battery storage projects, we weigh a number of factors including location, local policies and regulatory environment, financing costs and potential internal rate of returns.|
|●||Financing. We typically include financing plans for our projects in our financial models and feasibility studies. We finance our projects through our working capital and debt financing from local banks or international financing sources that require us to pledge project assets.|
|●||Permitting and approval. We either obtain the permits and approvals necessary for solar projects ourselves or we acquire projects that have already received the necessary permits and approvals. The permitting and approval process for solar and battery storage projects varies from country to country and often from region to region within a country.|
|●||Project design, engineering, procurement and construction. Our engineering team generally designs solar and battery storage projects to optimize performance while minimizing construction and operational costs and risks. The engineering design process includes the site layout and electrical design as well choosing the appropriate technology, in particular module and inverter types. We use solar modules produced by us and by third-party manufacturers, and procure inverters and other equipment from third-party suppliers.|
Currently, we operate and maintain solar power plants primarily in Japan and Latin America. We enter into grid-connection agreements and/or PPAs with the local grid companies. After a project is connected to the grid, we regularly inspect, monitor and manage the project site with the intention to maximize the utilization rate, rate of power generation and system life of the project.
We operate a monitoring center in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, which adopts the global monitoring platform (“CSEye”) to monitor the operational performance data in real time, to automatically receive alerts about exceptions, and to automate the reporting of performance, technician work orders, warranty claims, spare parts, health & safety incidences, manage system alarms and reports, all of which can be accessed through cloud applications. Our proprietary algorithms analyze the performance of the self-owned and third party power plants that we operate and maintain on a daily basis and identify potential problems. For example, they raise alarms when inverters or strings are under-performing.
Quality Control and Certifications
We have registered our quality control system according to the requirements of ISO 9001:2008 standards. TÜV Rheinland Group, a leading international service company that documents the safety and quality of products, systems and services, audits our quality systems. We inspect and test incoming raw materials to ensure their quality. We monitor our manufacturing processes to ensure quality control and we inspect finished products by conducting reliability and other tests.
We also maintain various international and domestic certifications for our solar modules. For example, we have obtained IEC61215/61730 certifications for sales of our modules in Europe, UL61730 certifications for sales of our modules in North America, and other necessary certifications for sales of our modules in Japan, Korea, India, Brazil, Australia, Colombia, Israel, Italy, Great Britain and under several solar programs in China. The IEC certification is issued by Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker, or VDE, and the UL certification by Canadian Standards Association, or CSA. All of our modules launched in the past years satisfy the latest standards, including IEC 61215, IEC61730 and UL61730, and have achieved high California Energy Commission, or CEC, PVUSA test condition ratings. All have passed additional extended stress program qualifications such as salt mist testing, ammonia testing, PID testing, as well as extra-standard or “3-times” testing programs from PVEL or VDE. Earlier in 2020, we also achieved successfully all required steps for a new competitive carbon footprint certification for the French market special tender requirements.
Our PV test laboratory is accredited by CNAS according to ISO 17025 quality management standard, and has been approved into various Data Acceptance Program, namely by CSA, VDE, and the China General Certification, or CGC, in China. The PV test laboratory allows us to conduct some product certification testing in-house, which decreases time-to-market and certification costs, as well as exhaustive product and component reliability research to drive improvements in product durability.
Sales, Marketing and Customers
The following table sets forth, for the periods indicated, certain information relating to our total net revenues derived from our customers categorized by their geographic locations for the periods indicated:
Years Ended December 31,
(In thousands of $, except for percentages)
Europe and others
CSI Solar Segment
Our primary customers are distributors, system integrators, project developers and installers/EPC companies. A small number of customers have historically accounted for a significant portion of our net revenues. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, the top five customers of the CSI Solar segment by net revenues collectively accounted for approximately 15.8%, 15.8% and 14.0%, respectively, of our total net revenues. Sales to our largest customer in those years accounted for 6.6%, 3.9% and 3.9%, respectively, of our total net revenues.
We market and sell solar modules worldwide for residential, commercial and utility-scale solar energy projects and solutions. We primarily sell our products to distributors and large-scale installers through our own, home-grown sales teams, who operate throughout Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific regions.
Our marketing activities include brand sponsorship, social media discussions and digital marketing. Our teams also develop channel marketing programs to support our customers in their marketing of our business and products, in addition to providing to them various services such as product training, new product briefing, and sales training. Furthermore, our marketing team focuses heavily on public relations and crisis management to safeguard our public image. By working closely with our sales teams and other leading solar research companies, our marketing team provides up-to-date market information on a constant basis, supporting the efforts of our sales team. Our marketing staff is located throughout the Americas, China, Europe, India, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Korea.
We sell our standard solar module products primarily under three types of arrangements: sales contracts to distributors; sales to systems integrators, installers/EPC companies and project developers; and OEM/tolling manufacturing arrangements.
We target our sales and marketing efforts for our specialty solar products at companies in selected industry sectors, including the automotive, telecommunications and LED lighting sectors. As standard solar modules increasingly become commoditized and technology advancements allow solar power to be used in more off-grid applications, we intend to increase our sales and marketing efforts on our specialty solar products and capabilities. Our sales and marketing team works with our specialty solar products development team to take into account changing customer preferences and demands to ensure that our sales and marketing team is able to effectively communicate to customers our product development changes and innovations. We intend to establish additional relationships in other market sectors as the specialty solar products market expands.
As we expand our manufacturing capacity and enhance our brand name with our system solutions offering, we continue to develop new customer relationships in a wider range of geographic markets to further decrease single market dependency. Since 2013, we significantly increased our total number of buying customers and achieved leading market share in North America, Canada, Japan, South-Africa and Brazil, which we maintained and grew further. In 2021, we have successfully started to produce and sell our own CSI single-phase inverter portfolio to complement the already established and growing overall CSI branded inverter sales. Given our growing product and solutions offering, we became one of the leading turnkey EPC PV-system providers in Australia in 2018 and 2019 as well as becoming a key system kits/packages and turnkey system provider in Brazil since 2018. In the U.S., we have been recognized as a top 10 system/inverter supplier since 2019. In order to minimize the significant cost fluctuation exposure, we have shifted away from the full EPC service model and are now offering and helping our customer with system design and system optimization simulation and support.
In general, we are continuously growing our direct sales channel to sell modules and other solar system components (as system packages or as stand-alone components) directly to EPC, developer as well as contractor/installer, to lower customer concentration and to reduce payment risks and demand fluctuation risks. In order to access small installers and contractors (which we do not directly serve), we maintain a strong sales channel and business relationship with key distribution partners around the globe. In parallel we have started to further expand our Key Account / Utility Scale sales access and gaining market share in this segment – enabled by our high efficiency large format module portfolio for LCOE optimized large commercial and utility scale project usage.
Solar System Kits
A solar system kit is a ready-to-install package consisting of solar modules produced by us and components, such as inverters, racking system and other accessories, supplied by third parties. In 2021, we sold approximately 1.1 GW of system kits primarily in China, Japan and Brazil.
Battery Storage Solutions
We leverage our vast customer and supply chain network to offer competitive solutions for stand-alone battery storage offerings or “Photovoltaic + Storage” integrated solutions. We also continue to prioritize our R&D and investments into battery storage product and technology development to further our advancement into downstream product, technology, and manufacturing as well as upstream project integrated battery storage solutions.
The table below sets forth CSI Solar’s battery storage system integration’s project as of January 31, 2022. LTSA projects are operational battery storage projects delivered by CSI Solar that are under multi-year long-term service agreements and generate recurring earnings. Contracted/in construction projects are expected to be delivered within the next 12 to 18 months. Forecast projects include those that have more than 75% probability of being contracted within the next 12 months, and the remaining pipeline includes projects that have been identified but have a below 75% probability of being contracted.
Global Energy Segment
We develop, construct, maintain, sell and/or operate solar power and battery storage plants primarily in Canada, the U.S., Japan, China, the EU, the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia Australia and Korea. We also provide development, O&M and assets management services. We sell our projects to large utility companies, corporate offtakers, other power producers and asset managers. Customers for our development, O&M and asset management services include solar project developers and owners.
In order to continue to grow our Global Energy segment, we conduct market due diligence, routinely meet with industry players and interested investors, and attend industry conferences and events to identify project development opportunities. Our team has extensive industry expertise and significant experience in working with government authorities and developing new projects for our target markets.
Solar Project Development
As of January 31, 2022, our total project pipeline was 24.4 GWp, including 1.6 GWp under construction, 4.2 GWp of backlog, and 18.6 GWp of earlier stage pipeline.
Backlog projects are late-stage projects that have passed their Risk Cliff Date and are expected to be built in the next 1-4 years. A project’s Risk Cliff Date is the date on which the project passes the last high-risk development stage and varies depending on the country where it is located. This is usually after the projects have received all the required environmental and regulatory approvals, and entered into interconnection agreements, FIT arrangements and PPAs. Over 90% of projects in backlog are contracted (i.e., have secured a PPA or FIT), and the remaining are reasonably assured of securing PPAs.
Pipeline projects are early- to mid-stage project opportunities currently under development that are yet to be de-risked.
The following table presents our total project pipeline.
Total Project Pipeline by Region as of January 31, 2022 (in MWp)*
Asia Pacific excluding Japan and China
*Note: Total project pipeline table represents the gross MWp size of the projects, including minority interest. Gross MWp size of projects includes 405 MWp of projects in construction in Latin America were already sold to third parties.
Operating Solar Power Plants and Sale of Electricity
In addition to our project backlog, we had a portfolio of solar power plants in operation totaling 445 MWp as of January 31, 2022. The resale value of these plants was estimated at approximately $260.0 million as of January 31, 2022. Our total portfolio of solar power plants in operation as of January 31, 2022 was as follows:
Solar Power Plants in Operation (in MWp)
Asia Pacific excluding
Japan & China
Note: Gross MWp size of projects, includes 196 MWp in Latin America and 2 MWp in Asia Pacific excluding Japan and China already sold to third parties.
Battery Storage Project Development
We have been actively developing utility-scale solar plus battery storage projects, as well as stand-alone battery storage projects. Since the first quarter of 2021, we have been co-hosting battery storage facilities with solar power plants on the same piece of land for nearly all projects under development. By using one interconnection point per project, we expect to significantly enhance the efficiency of our development and the value of our assets under development.
In addition, we have already signed several storage tolling agreements with a variety of power purchasers, including community choice aggregators, investor-owned utilities, universities, and public utility districts. We have also signed development services agreements to retrofit operational solar projects with battery storage, many of which were previously developed by ourselves.
The table below sets forth our storage project development backlog and pipeline as of January 31, 2022.
Storage Project Backlog and Pipeline by Region as of January 31, 2022 (in MWp)
Asia Pacific excluding Japan and China
Customer Support and Service
We typically sell our standard solar modules with a twelve-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship and a twenty-five to thirty year linear power performance warranty that guarantees the actual power output of our modules.
For solar and battery storage projects built by us, we provide a limited workmanship or balance of system warranty against defects in engineering, design, installation and construction under normal use, operation and service conditions for a period of up to ten years following the energizing of the solar project. In resolving claims under the workmanship or balance of system warranty, we have the option of remedying through repair, refurbishment or replacement of equipment. We have also entered into similar workmanship warranties with our suppliers to back up our warranties.
As part of our energy business, before commissioning solar and battery storage projects, we conduct performance testing to confirm that the projects meet the operational and capacity expectations set forth in the agreements. In limited cases, we also provide for an energy generation performance test designed to demonstrate that the actual energy generation for up to the first three years meets or exceeds the modeled energy expectation (after adjusting for actual solar irradiation). In the event that the energy generation performance test performs below expectations, the appropriate party (EPC contractor or equipment provider) may incur liquidated damages capped at a percentage of the contract price. In certain instances, a bonus payment may be received if the energy generation performance test performs above expectations.
Our customer support and service function handles technical inquiries and warranty-related issues. In recent years, we expanded our capacity in these areas to better enable us to handle our customer’s questions and concerns in a timely and professional manner.
We have agreements with a group of insurance companies to reduce some of the risks associated with our warranties. See “—Insurance” below. Our customer support and service function will continue to expand and improve services we provide to our customers.
Module and Beyond-Pure-Module Business
The market for solar power and battery storage products is competitive and evolving. We compete with American companies, such as First Solar, and Asia-based companies such as Longi, Trina, Jinko, JA Solar and Hanwha Q Cells. Some of our competitors are developing or producing products based on alternative solar technologies, such as thin film PV materials, that may ultimately have costs similar to, or lower than, our projected costs. Solar modules produced using thin film materials, such as cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide technology, generally have lower conversion efficiency but do not use silicon for production, compared to our crystalline silicon solar module products, and as such are less susceptible to increases in the costs of silicon. Some of our competitors have also become vertically integrated, from upstream polysilicon manufacturing to solar system integration. In addition, the solar power market in general competes with other sources of renewable and alternative energy as well as conventional power generation.
We believe that the key competitive factors in the market for solar power and battery storage products include:
|●||the ability to deliver products to customers on time and in the required volumes;|
|●||product quality and associated service issues;|
|●||nameplate power and other performance parameters of the module, such as power tolerances;|
|●||value-added services such as system design and installation;|
|●||value added features such as those that make solar power and battery storage products easier or cheaper to install;|
|●||additional system components such as mounting systems, delivered as a package or bundle;|
|●||brand equity and any good reputation resulting from the above items, including the willingness of banks to finance projects using modules produced by a particular supplier;|
|●||customer relationships and distribution channels; and|
|●||the aesthetic appearance of solar power and battery storage products.|
In the immediate future, we believe that our ability to compete depends on our ability to deliver cost-effective products in a timely manner and to develop and maintain a strong brand name based on high quality products and strong relationships with downstream customers. Our competitiveness also depends on our ability to effectively manage our cash flow and balance sheet and to maintain our relationships with the financial institutions that fund solar and battery storage projects. Consolidation of the solar industry is already occurring and is expected to continue in the near future. We believe that such consolidation will benefit our company in the long-term. We believe that the key to competing successfully in the long-term is to produce innovative, high quality products at competitive prices and develop an integrated sales approach that includes services, ancillary products, such as mounting systems and inverters, and value-added product features. Our goal is to offer our customers solar power products that deliver the lowest LCOE, and we focus in particular on high-priced markets and segments, such as the distributed generation market segment which includes commercial, industrial and residential end market applications. Additionally, we believe that a good marketing program and the strong relationships that we are building with customers and suppliers will support us in this competitive environment.
Our energy business is a capital-intensive business with numerous industry participants. We face competition from a large and diverse group of local and international project developers, financial investors and certain utility companies. These competitors vary in terms of size, geographic focus, financial resources and operating capabilities. We compete in a diversified and complicated landscape since the commercial and regulatory environments for solar and battery storage project development, sale and operation vary significantly from region to region and country to country. While local policy frameworks on battery storage project development remain relatively new, many new entrants are seizing on the market opportunity.
Our primary competitors are local and international developers and operators of solar and battery storage projects. We believe the key competitive factors in the global solar and battery storage project development industry include:
|●||vertical integration with upstream manufacturing;|
|●||permit and project development experience and expertise;|
|●||reputation and track record;|
|●||relationship with government authorities and knowledge of local policies;|
|●||strong internal working capital and good relationship with banks and international organizations that enhance access to external financing;|
|●||experienced technicians and executives who are familiar with the industry and the implementation of our business plans; and|
|●||expertise and experience in providing EPC.|
We cannot, however, guarantee that some of our competitors do not or will not have advantages over us in terms of greater operational, financial, technical, management or other resources in particular markets or in general.
Currently, we develop and construct and, in limited cases, operate and maintain solar and battery storage projects in various regions including Canada, the U.S., Japan, China, the EU, the U.K., Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Australia and Korea. We compete to supply energy to potential customers with a limited number of utilities and providers of distributed generation in these markets. If we wish to enter into new PPAs for our solar and battery storage projects upon termination of previous PPAs, we compete with conventional utilities primarily based on cost of capital, generation located at customer sites, operations and management expertise, price (including predictability of price), green attributes of power, the ease by which customers can switch to electricity generated by our energy systems and our open architecture approach to working within the industry, which facilitates collaboration and project acquisitions.
For further discussion of the competitive risks that we face, see “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Our Company and Our Industry—Because the markets in which we compete are highly competitive and evolving quickly, because many of our competitors have greater resources than we do or are more adaptive, and because we have a limited track record in our energy business, we may not be able to compete successfully and we may not be able to maintain or increase our market share.”
We maintain property risk insurance policies with reputable insurance companies to cover our equipment, facilities, buildings and inventories. The coverage of these insurance policies includes losses due to natural hazards and losses arising from unforeseen accidents. Our manufacturing plants in China and elsewhere are covered by business interruption insurance. However, significant damage or interruption to any of our manufacturing plants, whether as a result of fire or other causes, could still have a material and adverse effect on our results of operations. We also maintain commercial general liability (including product liability) coverage. We obtained credit insurance primarily from China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation, or Sinosure. Credit insurance is designed to offset the collection risk of our account receivables for certain customers within the credit limits approved by the insurers. Risks related to marine, air and inland transit for the export of our products and domestic transportation of materials and products are covered under cargo transportation insurance. We also maintain directors and officers liability insurance.
We have agreements with a group of insurance companies to reduce some of the risks associated with our warranties. Under the terms of the insurance policies, the insurance companies are obliged to reimburse us, subject to certain maximum claim limits and certain deductibles, for the actual product warranty costs that we incur under the terms of our warranty against defects in workmanship and material and our warranty relating to power output. The warranty insurance is renewable annually. We believe that our warranty improves the marketability of our products and our customers are willing to pay more for products with warranties backed by insurance.
Except as disclosed in the “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors—Risks Related to Doing Business in China,” we believe we have obtained the environmental permits and passed relevant assessments necessary to conduct the business currently carried on by us at our existing manufacturing facilities. We have also conducted environmental studies in conjunction with our solar and battery storage projects to assess and reduce the environmental impact of such projects. Our major operations are certified under ISO14001 Environmental and ISO45001 Occupational Health and Safety standards, which required that we implement and operate according to various procedures that demonstrate waste reduction, energy conservation, injury reduction and other environmental, safety and health objectives.
We have finished establishing our internal ISO14064:2018 Green House Gas (“GHG”) quantification and reporting system under guidance of 3rd party Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), to identify, quantify and report our GHG emissions and removals at the organization level, setting up solid ground for continuous GHG emissions reduction.
Our products must comply with the environmental regulations of the jurisdictions in which they are installed. We make efforts to ensure that our products comply with the EU Regulation (“EC”) No 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). Our system solutions product lines, including string inverters, also comply with the European Union’s RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive 2011/65/EU and its amendments. Note that Solar PV modules are exempted from the European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (“RoHS”) legislation as part of the decision from the European Commission to ensure achievement of energy renewable targets in its article 2. We also strictly adhere to Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (“TCLP”) testing of our photovoltaic module portfolio to monitor the presence of any toxic metal substances (arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, silver) according to TCLP Standard EPA Test Method 1311, as issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) under the Toxic Substances Control Act (“TSCA”) for landfill disposal of modules. We adopted a new advanced TCLP sampling method developed by Arizona State University to improve sampling accuracy and testing results.
Our module and beyond-pure-module operations are subject to regulation and periodic monitoring by local environmental protection authorities. Also, various licenses, permits, and approvals are required for our solar and battery storage project developments within our energy business. If we fail to comply with present or future environmental laws and regulations, we could be subject to fines, suspension of production or cessation of operations.
Environmental, Social and Governance Initiatives
We incorporate ESG factors across our business and strategic decision-making process and continue to make efforts to improve our practices to ensure long-term sustainability. Our three key focus areas are:
|●||Environmental. We are committed to providing a safe and enriching work environment for employees and contractors and strive to reduce the environmental impact of our business activities. We track greenhouse gas emissions and manufacturing intensity on energy, water and waste across our facilities. As a result, we have meaningfully reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy, water and waste intensity during the manufacturing of solar PV modules. In addition, we research, develop and implement new technologies to enhance product efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of our production processes. We have also established rolling 5-year key performance indicator (“KPI”) targets for key metrics that are integrated into employee KPIs and compensation plans. Moreover, we have established a sustainability program to manage the sustainability risks associated with the growth opportunities, which is overseen by the Sustainability Committee.|
|●||Social Responsibility. We are an equal opportunities employer, and we strive to cultivate a diverse and inclusive culture and create lasting positive impact on society and the communities in which we operate. To promote diversity and inclusion, we monitor diversity and inclusion performance across all our human capital management areas by (i) tracking our hiring practices including improving the balance of women, people of ethnic minority and people with disabilities in our hiring, (ii) expanding our recruiting channels to attract a more diverse range of candidates, (iii) establishing several employee resource groups to provide institutional for reaching professional career goals, and (iv) providing unconscious bias training across our global operations. We care about our employees’ training and development and have implemented extensive skills and leadership training programs, including the Canadian Solar University. See “Item 6. Directors, Senior Management and Employees—D. Employees.” We also respect and recognize employees’ rights and freedom to associate and bargain collectively. In addition, we strive to be a responsible corporate citizen in the communities where we operate by (i) responding quickly to COVID-19 and developing a response plan to provide guidance to all offices internationally, and (ii) abiding to a strict code of business conduct and ethics and expecting no less from our business partners, including our suppliers.|
|●||Corporate Governance. Our board of directors is responsible for managing and supervising the business and affairs of our Company, and has a broad range of skills and industry knowledge to oversee management performance to ensure the success of our business and create long-term value for stakeholders. We continuously make efforts to improve the diversity of our board of directors and strive to further improving diversity at the board level and meet the NASDAQ New Rule 5605(f) for Diverse Board Representation in the specified time frame, including based on gender, nationality, ethnicity, age and expertise. Moreover, we are committed to upholding the highest standards of business ethics by (i) establishing a framework of governance documents and guidelines, and (ii) conducting business ethics awareness and compliance training to our employees on a regular basis.|
In addition, we aim to establish a sustainable, efficient and healthy supply chain that meets our needs and the interests of our stakeholders. We maintain a procurement management strategy which follows a centralized procurement approach, controlled at the group level and supported by each division. We also require all our suppliers to adhere to our Supplier Code of Conduct, which sets forth our standards on human rights, environmental protection, health, safety and business ethics.
Environmental, Social Responsibility and Corporate Governance Policies
We have adopted a suite of environmental, social responsibility and corporate governance policies to provide a framework for our sustainability commitments, which are publicly available on our website. Our Environment, Occupational Health and Safety Policy provides for the principles and guidelines for the protection of the environment, and the health and safety of our employees and others who are affected by our business. To better fulfill our social responsibilities, we also maintain our Labor and Human Rights Policy, Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, Anti-Modern Slavery Policy, Supplier Code of Conduct, and Conflict Minerals Policy. In addition, to maintain the highest standards of conduct and ethics in the way that we conduct our business, we have introduced the following corporate governance policies: Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, Whistleblower Policy, Insider Trading Policy, Related-Party Transactions, Prohibition Against Giving Bribes, and Prohibition Against Accepting Bribes.
This section sets forth a summary of certain significant regulations or requirements that affect our business activities in China or our shareholders’ right to receive dividends and other distributions from us.
Renewable Energy Law and Other Government Directives
In February 2005, China enacted its Renewable Energy Law, which became effective on January 1, 2006 and was revised in December 2009. The revised Renewable Energy Law, which became effective on April 1, 2010, sets forth policies to encourage the development and use of solar energy and other non-fossil energy sources and their on-grid generation. It also authorizes the relevant pricing authorities to set favorable prices for the purchase of electricity generated by solar and other renewable power generation systems.
The law also sets forth the national policy to encourage the installation and use of solar energy water-heating systems, solar energy heating and cooling systems, solar PV systems and other solar energy utilization systems. It also provides financial incentives, such as national funding, preferential loans and tax preferences for the development of renewable energy projects subject to certain regulations of the relevant authorities.
In November 2005, the NDRC promulgated the Renewable Energy Industry Development Guidance Catalogue, in which solar power figured prominently. In January 2006, the NDRC promulgated two implementation directives with respect to the Renewable Energy Law. In January 2007, the NDRC promulgated another related implementation directive. These directives set forth specific measures for setting the price of electricity generated by solar and other renewable power generation systems, for sharing additional expenses, and for allocating administrative and supervisory authority among different government agencies at the national and provincial levels. They also stipulate the responsibilities of electricity grid companies and power generation companies with respect to the implementation of the Renewable Energy Law.
In August 2007, the NDRC promulgated the Medium and Long-Term Development Plan for the Renewable Energy Industry. This plan sets forth national policy to provide financial allowance and preferential tax regulations for the renewable energy industry. The Outline of the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the PRC, which was approved by the National People’s Congress in March 2016, the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan for Renewable Energy Development, which was promulgated by the NDRC in December 2016, and the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan for Solar Power Generation, which was promulgated by the National Energy Administration in December 2016 also demonstrates a commitment to promote the development of renewable energy to enhance the competitiveness of the renewable energy industry, including the solar energy industry. In December 2021, the State Council promulgated the Fourteenth Five-Year Plan Comprehensive Work Plan for Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction, which encourages the application of wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energy in agricultural production and rural life and promotes the integrated construction of building photovoltaics.
China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (formerly, the Ministry of Construction) also issued a directive in June 2005 which seeks to expand the use of solar energy in residential and commercial buildings and encourages the increased application of solar energy in different townships. Similarly, China’s State Council promulgated a directive in July 2005, which sets forth specific measures to conserve energy resources. In November 2005, China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development promulgated the Administrative Provisions on Energy Conservation for Civil Constructions which encourages the development of solar energy. In August 2006, the State Council issued the Decision on Strengthening the Work of Energy Conservation which encourages the great development of the solar energy and other renewable energy. In addition, on April 1, 2008, the newly revised PRC Energy Conservation Law came into effect. Among other objectives, this law encourages the installation of solar power facilities in buildings to improve energy efficiency. In July 2009, China’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development jointly promulgated “the Urban Demonstration Implementation Program of the Renewable Energy Building Construction” and “the Implementation Program of Acceleration in Rural Application of the Renewable Energy Building Construction” to support the development of the new energy industry and the new energy-saving industry.
On March 8, 2011, China’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development jointly promulgated the Notice on Further Application of Renewable Energy in Building Construction, which aims to raise the percentage of renewable energy used in buildings.
On August 21, 2012, China’s Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development jointly promulgated the Notice on Improving Policies for Application of Renewal Energy in Building and Adjusting Fund Allocation and Management Method, which aims to promote the use of solar energy and other new energy products in public facilities and residences, further amplifying the effect of the policies for application of renewable energy in buildings.
In June 2014, the General Office of the State Council issued its Notice on Printing and Distributing the Action Plan for the Energy Development Strategy (2014-2020), which requested accelerating the development of solar power generation, including promoting the construction of photovoltaic base construction, among others.
In April 2016, the NDRC and National Energy Administration issued the Notice on Printing and Distributing the Action Plan for Energy Technology Revolution and Innovation (2016-2030), which sets forth the focus, the main direction, the timetable and the route of energy technology innovation.
In November 2017, the NDRC issued the Opinions on Comprehensively Deepening the Reform of the Price Mechanism, which requested improving the price mechanism of renewable energy, including adopting the decrement mechanism on the on-grid benchmark price of new energy resources such as wind power and photovoltaic power.
In March 2021, National People’s Congress approved the Outline of the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-term Goals for 2035 of the PRC, in which renewable energy industry was supported.
As we have expanded our ingot, silicon wafer and solar cell manufacturing capacities, we have begun to generate material levels of noise, wastewater, gaseous wastes and other industrial waste. Additionally, as we expand our internal solar components production capacity, our risk of facility incidents that would negatively affect the environment also increases. We are subject to a variety of governmental regulations related to the storage, use and disposal of hazardous materials. The major environmental laws and regulations applicable to us include the PRC Environmental Protection Law, which became effective in 1989, as amended and promulgated in 2014, the PRC Law on the Prevention and Control of Noise Pollution, which became effective in 1997, as amended and promulgated in 2018, the PRC Law on the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution, which became effective in 1988, as amended and promulgated in 1995, 2000, 2015 and 2018, the PRC Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, which became effective in 1984, as amended and promulgated in 1996, 2008 and 2017, the PRC Law on the Prevention and Control of Solid Waste Pollution, which became effective in 1996, as amended and promulgated in 2004, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2020, the PRC Law on Evaluation of Environmental Affects, which became effective in 2003, as amended and promulgated in 2016 and 2018, the PRC Law on Promotion of Clean Production, which became effective in 2003, as amended and promulgated in 2012, and the Regulations on the Administration of Construction Project Environmental Protection, which became effective in 1998, as amended and promulgated in 2017.
Some of our PRC subsidiaries are located in Suzhou, China, which is adjacent to Taihu Lake, a nationally renowned and protected body of water. As a result, production at these subsidiaries is subject to the Regulations on the Administration of Taihu Basin, which became effective on 2011, the Regulation of Jiangsu Province on Preventing Water Pollution in Taihu Lake, which became effective in 1996 and was further revised and promulgated in 2007, 2010, 2012, 2018 and 2021, and the Implementation Plan of Jiangsu Province on Comprehensive Treatment of Water Environment in Taihu Lake Basin, which was promulgated in February 2009 and amended in 2013. Because of these regulations, the environmental protection requirements imposed on nearby manufacturing projects, especially new projects, have increased noticeably, and Jiangsu Province has stopped approving construction of new manufacturing projects that increase the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus released into Taihu Lake, except for those satisfy certain applicable statutory requirements.
Admission of Foreign Investment
The principal regulation governing foreign ownership of solar power businesses in the PRC is the Catalogue of Encouraged Industries for Foreign Investment. Under the current catalogue, which was amended in December 2020 and became effective on January 27, 2021, the solar power related business is classified as an “Encouraged Industries for Foreign Investment.” Companies that operate in encouraged foreign investment industries and satisfy applicable statutory requirements are eligible for preferential treatment, including exemption from customs of certain self-used equipment and priority consideration in obtaining land use rights provided by certain local governments.
While the 2004 catalogue only applied to the construction and operation of solar power stations, the 2007 catalogue expanded its application also applies to the production of solar cell manufacturing machines, the production of solar powered air conditioning, heating and drying systems and the manufacture of solar cells, and the 2011 catalogue, the 2015 catalogue and the 2017 catalogue, the 2019 catalogue, and the current 2020 catalogue also cover the manufacture of solar light collector glass and etc.
Administration of Foreign Invested Companies
The establishment, approval, registered capital requirement and day-to-day operational matters of wholly foreign-owned enterprises, are regulated by the Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise Law of the PRC, effective in 1986 and amended in 2000 and 2016, and the Implementation Rules of the Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprise Law of the PRC, effective in 1990 and amended in 2001 and 2014. The establishment, operation and management of corporate entities in China are governed by the Company Law of the PRC, or the Company Law, effective in 1994 and amended in 1999, 2004, 2005, 2013 and 2018. The Company Law is applicable to our PRC subsidiaries unless PRC laws on foreign investment stipulate otherwise.
In March 2019, the Foreign Investment Law was promulgated, effective on January 1, 2020, at which time the Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprise Law will be repealed. Regulation for Implementing the Foreign Investment Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect on January 1, 2020. Foreign- invested enterprises that were established in accordance with Wholly Foreign-owned Enterprise Law before the implementation of Foreign Investment Law may retain their original organizational forms and other aspects for five years.
Income Tax and VAT
PRC enterprise income tax is calculated based on taxable income determined under PRC accounting principles. Under the EIT Law, both foreign-invested enterprises and domestic enterprises are subject to a uniform enterprise income tax rate of 25%. The EIT Law provides for preferential tax treatment for certain categories of industries and projects that are strongly supported and encouraged by the state. For example, enterprises qualified as HNTEs are entitled to a 15% enterprise income tax rate, provided that they satisfy other applicable statutory requirements. Further, enterprises which engage in businesses within the scope of the Catalogue of Encouraged Industries in Western Regions promulgated by the NDRC, or Western Catalogue, are entitled to a 15% enterprise income tax rate provided that such enterprises satisfy other applicable statutory requirements.
Certain of our PRC subsidiaries, such as CSI New Energy Holding and CSI Luoyang Manufacturing, were once HNTEs and enjoyed preferential enterprise income tax rates. These benefits have, however, expired. In 2021, only Suzhou Sanysolar Materials Technology Co., Ltd, Changshu Tegu New Material Technology Co., Ltd, CSI New Energy Development (Suzhou) Co., Ltd (formerly known as Suzhou Gaochuangte New Energy Development Co., Ltd), and Changshu Tlian Co., Ltd were HNTEs and enjoyed preferential enterprise income tax rates.
The EIT Law also provides that enterprises established outside China whose “de facto management body” is located in China are considered PRC tax residents and will generally be subject to the uniform 25% enterprise income tax rate on their global income. Under the implementation regulations, the term “de facto management body” is defined as substantial and overall management and control over aspects such as the production and business, personnel, accounts and properties of an enterprise. Circular 82 further provides certain specific criteria for determining whether the “de facto management body” of a PRC-controlled offshore incorporated enterprise is located in the PRC. The criteria include whether (a) the premises where the senior management and the senior management bodies responsible for the routine production and business management of the enterprise perform their functions are mainly located within the PRC, (b) decisions relating to the enterprise’s financial and human resource matters are made or subject to approval by organizations or personnel in the PRC, (c) the enterprise’s primary assets, accounting books and records, company seals, and board and shareholders’ meeting minutes are located or maintained in the PRC and (d) 50% or more of voting board members or senior executives of the enterprise habitually reside in the PRC. Although Circular 82 only applies to offshore enterprises controlled by enterprises or enterprise groups located within the PRC, the determining criteria set forth in the Circular 82 may reflect the tax authorities’ general position on how the “de facto management body” test may be applied in determining the tax resident status of offshore enterprises. As the tax resident status of an enterprise is subject to the determination by the PRC tax authorities, uncertainties remain with respect to the interpretation of the term “de facto management body” as applicable to our offshore entities.
Under the EIT Law and implementing regulations issued by the State Council, the PRC withholding tax rate of 10% is generally applicable to interest and dividends payable to investors from companies that are not “resident enterprises” in the PRC, to the extent such interest or dividends have their sources within the PRC. If our Canadian parent entity is deemed a PRC tax resident under the EIT Law based on the location of our “de facto management body,” dividends distributed from our PRC subsidiaries to our Canadian parent entity could be exempt from Chinese dividend withholding tax. However, in that case, dividends from us to our shareholders may be regarded as China-sourced income and, consequently, be subject to Chinese withholding tax at the rate of 10%, or at a lower treaty rate if applicable. Similarly, if we are considered a PRC tax resident, any gain realized by our shareholders from the transfer of our common shares is also subject to Chinese withholding tax at the rate of 10% if such gain is regarded as income derived from sources within the PRC. It is unclear whether any dividends that we pay on our common shares or any gains that our shareholders may realize from the transfer of our common shares would be treated as income derived from sources within the PRC and subject to PRC tax.
Under the Provisional Regulation of the PRC on Value Added Tax amended in 2008, 2016 and 2017 and its implementation rules, which became effective in 2009 and were amended in 2011, all entities and individuals that are engaged in the sale of goods, processing, repairs and replacement services, the sales of services, intangible assets or real estate, and the importation of goods in China are required to pay VAT. Gross proceeds from sales and importation of goods and sales of labor services are generally subject to VAT at a rate of 17%, with exceptions for certain categories of goods that are taxed at a rate of 11%. Gross proceeds from sales of real estate are subject to VAT at a rate of 11%. Gross proceeds from sales of services and intangible assets are generally subject to VAT at a rate of 6%, with exceptions for certain categories of services or intangible assets that are taxed at a rate of 17% or 11%. When engaging in exportation of certain goods or cross-border sales of certain services or intangible assets, the exporter or the seller