Yesterday (Jan. 21) the U.S. International Trade Commission today upheld the tariffs it imposed on Chinese and Taiwanese solar panels for unfair Chinese trade practices. The tariffs are seen as hurting the U.S. solar industry by some, while others see it as a good thing for the solar industry.
The main proponent of the tariffs is SolarWorld USA, which first raised allegations of unfair trade practices in 2013. The Oregon-based PV manufacturer, itself a subsidiary of Germany’s SolarWorld, alleged that China was unfairly acting to keep the price of its solar exports to the U.S. lower making it harder for U.S.-based PV manufacturers to compete. The ITC sided with SolarWorld voting 5-0 in favor of Chinese tariffs and 4-1 in favor of Taiwanese tariffs.
“Today’s decision confirms the facts set out in our initial filing, the commission staff report and our testimony at the agency’s November hearing in the case. Manufacturers in China and Taiwan used illegal trade practices that harm the U.S. industry,” said Mukesh Dulani, U.S. president of SolarWorld. “U.S companies, including SolarWorld, Suniva and Silicon Energy, thank the commission and its staff for its thorough investigation and fourth vote to uphold American trade laws.”
On the other hand, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy and others fought against the tariffs, arguing that such tariffs will raise the price of solar power in the U.S.—particularly rooftop solar. “Today’s decision represents a clear setback for the U.S. solar industry,” SEIA President Rhone Resch said in response to the ruling.
“It’s particularly troubling that U.S. trade policy is working to increase the cost of solar products through tariffs when we know that more affordable solar energy creates more American solar jobs,” said Jigar Shah, president of CASE. “As shown in the data from the recent National Solar Jobs Census, falling module prices contributed to a 21.8% growth of solar employment in 2014, including a doubling of the installation sector since 2010, which is the largest source of domestic employment growth.”
Still, Resch noted that despite the tariffs the industry has continued to grow. “Our industry has been able to persevere so far in the face of needless and counter-productive litigation. U.S. solar manufacturing and services jobs continue to grow, while solar prices continue to fall,” he said.
“But consider how much better, and stronger, the U.S. solar industry would be doing without hundreds of millions of dollars in added tariff costs. In all likelihood, the industry would be well ahead of its goal of installing 10 gigawatts (GW) of new solar annually,” Resch said. “We’d also see a robust and growing U.S. polysilicon industry, shipping billions of dollars in exports and benefitting our economy. Instead, we’re now faced with U.S. polysilicon plant closures and layoffs. And through it all, SolarWorld has gained little to nothing from its short-sighted litigation.”
Both CASE and SEIA are recommending alternative solutions. SEIA has recommended a settlement with a U.S. solar manufacturing fund concept. “It’s time to turn the focus from litigation to negotiation. We remain convinced that a fair settlement is still possible,” Resch said.Tweet