Yesterday (April 26) Suniva, which filed for bankruptcy protection last week, filed a Section 201 petition with the US International Trade Commission that would impose tariff of up to 78 cents per watt on imported photovoltaic solar panels and cells under the “escape clause.” The move could double the cost of PV modules in the US and was quickly criticized by the solar industry.
For its part, Suniva contended that “US solar manufacturers face serious injury from the ongoing and increasing influx of foreign imports, which continue to drive down domestic prices.”
“The modern wave of solar technology was born from research in U.S. universities, industry and government, and U.S. manufacturers led the way in the commercialization of these technologies—and yet today, we stand fighting for the survival of jobs in an industry that the US created,” said Matt Card, Suniva’s executive vice president of Commercial Operations. “Without today’s requested global safeguard, the US solar manufacturing industry will die and we will not only lose solar manufacturing jobs today, but also those future jobs that will come from investing in the solar manufacturing industry of tomorrow.”
Suniva also made a plea to President Donald Trump (R) recommending he impose an import tax for at least four years on solar panels and PV cells, starting at 78 per watt for panels and 40 cents per watt for cells, according to PV Magazine. While Trump has not supported solar power or renewable energy, he has promised to make American manufacturing jobs a priority and is seeking to impose tariffs on other imported goods, including wood from Canada. Such an action, however, would make solar more expensive in the US than almost anywhere else, industry observers noted.
“Although we strongly support U.S. manufacturing, SEIA, after consultation with our Federal Policy Committee, has publicly taken the position against this petition to avoid damage to the 9,000 companies and 258,000 jobs in parts of the solar industry other than CSPV cell manufacturers,” said Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President Abigail Ross Hopper. “The Trump administration has been outspoken on the need for American manufacturing, but it is our hope he will not view a bankrupt company’s ‘last-ditch effort to survive’ (as the Wall Street Journal put it) as a compelling vehicle for the pro-manufacturing cause. We will do everything we can to prevent the remedies proposed by Suniva from becoming reality,” she stated.
Even SolarWorld, the Germany-based solar manufacturer with manufacturing in Oregon and which has long pushed for tariffs on foreign solar imports, is wary of Suniva’s actions. “SolarWorld—as the largest US crystalline-silicon solar manufacturer, with more than 40 years of U.S. manufacturing experience—will assess the case brought by Suniva but prefers that any action to be taken against unfair trade shall consider all parts of the US solar value chain,” Juergen Stein, US president of SolarWorld. “We're committed to helping to find a way that also considers the interests of other parties playing fair in the US solar market.”
However, Stein also offered the following comment: “The case of Suniva dramatically demonstrates that the US solar manufacturing industry still suffers from unfair trade. In particular, highly subsidized Chinese companies as well as other producers are globally dumping their products, forcing competitors to take losses, lay off workers and exit the market.” He added, “China now has managed to circumvent and violate existing trade defense measures in several ways and again incited a ruinous price race to the bottom, destroying US manufacturing jobs.”
Looking ahead the International Trade Commission will have until Aug. 24 to issue its findings in the case. In October its report will be sent to the president along with recommendations. Hopper saidTweet