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Monday
Oct022017

A serious threat to the survival of the flourishing U.S. solar industry

After declaring bankruptcy, Suniva, Inc. on April 26, 2017 led a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) asking the government to put its thumb on the scale of the U.S. solar market. On May 25, SolarWorld Americas announced it had joined as co-petitioner. This case poses a major threat to the U.S. solar industry and its 260,000 workers according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Last month, the International Trade Commission, in a 4-0 voted, sided with the manufacturers who had filed a petition under Section 201 of the Trade Act seeking relief from foreign manufactured solar cells. The petition only had to show that the two companies could not compete because of the import of cheaper solar cells, mainly from China but also Mexico. They were not obliged to demonstrate malicious intent by their rivals.

Since the ruling, and a backlash from virtually every other quarter of the U.S. solar energy sector, Suniva  has backed down from its original 40-cent-a-watt tariff on CSPV cells to a tariff of 25 cents per watt. It has also reduced its demand for a 78-cent-a-watt floor on module prices, to 32 cents per watt. SolarWorld has also modified its position and SEIA has filed its own petition. (The SolarWorld and SEIA briefs were too large to upload here.)

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), estimates the ruling could “more than double the cost of solar and put 88,000 jobs at risk.”

THE SOLAR INDUSTRY’S STANCE

The imposition of tariffs and price oors would damage the whole solar industry.

  • According to ClearView Energy Partners and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the proposed tariff and minimum pricing requirements would double the price of solar panels in the U.S.

  • This would come after years of lowering solar costs to consumers through innovation, production scale, improved business practices and greater understanding of solar technologies.

  • The rise in solar costs would slash demand. Solar project costs would rise dramatically for both rooftop and utility scale, and solar would become less competitive. Today, solar is one of the least expensive energy sources in America.

  • The U.S. solar industry employs 260,000 Americans. This petition puts these jobs at risk and if successful, 88,000 jobs will be lost nationwide, including 6,300 jobs in Texas, 4,700 in North Carolina and a whopping 7,000 jobs in South Carolina.

  • Today’s solar industry is a force in America’s economy. GTM valued the industry at $23 billion in 2016, and solar was the top source of new U.S. electricity generation last year. This incredible progress will be stopped in its tracks if the petition prevails.

The relief sought by Suniva and SolarWorld would exacerbate the underlying problem of an excess global supply of solar cells and modules by severely limiting the U.S. market. Raising trade barriers and inhibiting the import of fairly-traded goods will not jumpstart U.S. cell and module manufacturing.

Manufacturers in other parts of the solar sector across the U.S., such as racking systems, have been adding jobs. Solar manufacturing already employs more than 38,000 Americans. The fact that petitioners are laying off employees doesn’t re ect the growth in American manufacturing jobs. 

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