Months after a fierce trade dispute was brought before the International Trade Commission (ITC) by two bankrupted solar companies requesting a solar trade tariff on low-cost imports amid a booming US solar industry, a unanimous vote, 4-0, in favor to proceed with Suniva/SolarWorld trade case will segue into the next phase of the investigation.
About The Solar Trade Dispute
This controversial trade case which concluded its first round of deliberations in late September sided with the companies who filed the case finding that increased Chinese imports of solar panels and products into the US are “a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry.” Yet, strong evidence pointing to the contrary by practically the entire solar industry which has seen a massive boom in solar panel installations and economic growth in recent years had little impact in ITC’s ruling. With this decision, the case moves forward in determining if a solar trade tariff will be implemented on all solar imports coming from outside the US.
We outline what this solar trade tariff could mean for America’s green future, the solar industry, and prospective solar investors.
Imposing Tariffs Under Section 201
Suniva and SunWorld (both of whom happen to be owned by foreign corporations), had filed a complaint with the ITC back in May citing unfair competition after both companies went under in early 2017. The two companies are requesting a tariff on solar equipment – more specifically, a floor of $0.40/watt for imported solar cells and $0.78/watt on modules.
Opponents of the petition raised questions regarding bad business practices and decisions that led to bankruptcy amid a booming solar climate in the country.
Disappointment and Anger From “Nearly 9,000 US Solar Companies and the 260,000 Americans They Employ” – SEIA
The prospect of an imposed solar trade tariff has sparked industry-wide outcry, expressly in view of America’s record-breaking milestone in the rapid expansion of renewable energy solutions which has contributed to economic growth, jobs and low solar energy prices.
Such a blow to the health of the domestic solar industry as to impose a tariff is putting a lot on the line as it “will double the price of solar, destroy two-thirds of demand, erode billions of dollars in investment and unnecessarily for 88,000 Americans to lose their jobs in 2018.” – Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Plunging prices in imported panels have been a primary driver of over 1.3 million solar installations across the US to date, and has also helped this large-scale community solar idea come to fruition that benefits low-income housing residents.
Rays Of Hope For Solar Industry
So, where to from here? Though the stakes are high, there’s hope that the tariffs, should they be imposed, will be minimal. The Energy Trade Action Coalition, formed by a group of companies, organizations, and associations, will continue to rigorously fight the petition during the upcoming remedy phase. The ITC has until November to determine whether to address the petition by imposing a trade relief which would pin a tariff on imported solar materials.