More than 200 US solar industry participants employing some 17,000 workers have joined CASM– the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing, the industry/trade association announced yesterday. As it turns out, just 20 CASM members are manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems; 85% are involved not in solar energy manufacturing, but in downstream businesses, such as solar PV design and solar energy systems sales, marketing and installation, project development, consumer finance, solar energy systems integration and legal services.
Led by the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), critics of the unfair subsidies and dumping petitions against China CASM has lodged with the US Dept. of Commerce have focused on the make-up of the organization’s membership, asserting that its sacrificing solar PV market and jobs growth to protect its minority interest in the industry.
CASM’s membership has grown and diversified rapidly since it filed unfair trade petitions against China, however. The unfair trade petition and its arguments, coupled with a public relations campaign focused on its stated aim of standing “behind domestic manufacturing, sustainable production and fair, legal solar industry competition,” has proven successful, resulting in a membership that is now larger than that of its rival CASE. A list of CASM members is available on its website.
Growing Downstream Support for Combating Unfair Trade Practices
CASM continues to hammer away in support of one of the two central elements of its unfair trade petitions– that the Chinese government’s manufacturing and export subsidies violate international WTO trade rules.
“A group of Chinese manufacturers and importers makes demonstrably false claims about the portion of the industry, particularly installation workers, that it [CASM] represents,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., the driving force behind CASM and the largest U.S. manufacturer, in a press release. “These claims are simply desperate attempts to detract attention from China’s anti-competitive trade practices.
“Fully 82 percent of Americans back domestic solar manufacturing. Second, CASM represents a clear majority of American solar manufacturing. Third, the 17,000 supporters of CASM comprise nearly one in five of the industry’s estimated 100,000 employees, and many of them work in downstream fields, mainly installation.”
Chinese manufacturing and export subsidies have played the primary role in surging global production of crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar PV cells and panels. One industry participant recently estimated that current production levels are twice that of actual market demand. Some 95% of c-Si solar PV cells and panels manufactured in China have been exported, with domestic manufacturers benefiting from subsidies that CASM asserts violate WTO trade rules.
That’s led to carnage in solar manufacturing outside China. “At least 12 domestic U.S. manufacturers have shut down plants, declared bankruptcy or staged significant layoffs since 2010,” CASM notes.
Downstream solar PV CASM members, many of which are small- to medium-sized businesses, are now coming out publicly in support of its unfair trade petitions and drive to foster and better defend the domestic US solar PV industry value chain as well as manufacturing.
Indicative of such public support are statements from the likes of Delaware’s United Electric Supply, which employs some 300 people a national distributor of electrical products. “First and foremost we support U.S. jobs. Secondly, we support fair trade and want a level playing field so high-quality U.S. products can compete in the U.S. marketplace.”
The US International Trade Commission issued a preliminary ruling in which it unanimously found that China’s manufacturing and export subsidies are injuring domestic U.S. manufacturers. The Commerce Dept. on May 17 will announce the extent to which Chinese c-Si solar exporters have dumped cells and panels in the U.S. If they agree that this has been the case, Commerce will set countervailing duty margins that would be assessed on Chinese c-SI imports.
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.