Revised commodity codes for international trade in solar products

By Adrian Whiteman, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)


On 29 May, countries will meet at the World Customs Organisation to discuss revisions to the system of 6-digit codes (the Harmonised System or HS) used to classify international trade. At present, several solar products are combined with others under various HS codes, while others are not clearly identified at all. To improve statistics and facilitate trade in solar products, IRENA has prepared a proposal to modify some of the codes used to classify solar products and improve the explanatory notes describing these products.

The proposal suggests four main changes:

  • to use a new HS code to separate solar water heaters from other types of water heater;
  • to use two new codes to separate solar cells (unassembled/assembled into panels) from LEDs;
  • to use two new codes to separate PV generators from other types of generator; and
  • to use two new codes for solar lights and solar lighting kits.

The first three changes are relatively simple and would extract solar products from an existing, broader product group (e.g. solar cells are currently classified under the same code as LEDs, laser diodes and other types of photovoltaic semiconductor). The last change is to clarify where solar lights and lighting kits should be placed, as IRENA research identified that countries currently record these under at least 11 different codes, leading to some confusion and difficulties shipping products. Related to this, the classification of solar home systems is also currently unclear, so the proposal suggests how they may be clearly identified and placed into the PV generators category.

IRENA is seeking comments and support from any industry associations that may be interested in contributing to these developments. Further details of the proposal can be obtained from IRENA (awhiteman@irena.org), who would also be happy to answer any questions or discuss how this can be taken forward.