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Clean Power Sierra Club And Others Accuse US Of Bullying Indian Solar Industry

Published on March 26th, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill

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Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace Lead Effort To Curb American “Bullying” Of Indian Solar Industry

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March 26th, 2013 by  

The Sierra Club announced last week that it and 11 other organisations (listed below) had sent a letter to Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, acting US Trade Representative, expressing their growing concern regarding America’s legal intrusion into India’s national solar program.

According to the Sierra Club, “the United States government is currently challenging domestic content rules and subsidies in India’s national solar program, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM),” in the solar trade case they have brought before the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Sierra Club And Others Accuse US Of Bullying Indian Solar Industry

Solar battery charging station, panels
Image Credit: hiroo yamagata on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

India’s JNNSM aims to bring 20,000 megawatts of solar energy to India by the end of this decade. However, the US believes that Indian domestic content rules appear to discriminate against American solar panel producers, therefore violating WTO regulations.

The full letter can be viewed here, but the authors believe that “while it is critical to support and build a US solar industry, the development of [the US] solar industry should not come at the expense of India’s ability to develop its solar industry.”

“The United States shouldn’t be bullying other nations for nurturing their domestic economic growth, especially in an industry that could address the devastating effects of climate disruption worldwide,” said Sierra Club Trade Representative Ilana Solomon in a separate statement.

“We’re teetering on the edge of a climate tipping point, and we must invest in clean energy now – not only in the US, but globally. Instead of attempting to thwart India’s solar innovation, the Office of the United States Trade Representative should support India’s efforts to develop a domestic solar industry, just as we must do at home.”

Domestic content rules have been a vital policy tool used to foster, nurture, and grow new industries throughout history and can be used today to build and support renewable energy industries. Particularly in the context of the substantial challenges posed by climate change … —it is critical that countries have every tool at their disposal to transition to clean renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power.

The full letter outlines several reasons why nurturing a healthy Indian domestic solar industry is critical, noting that development of a viable domestic renewable energy industry is a way in which to increase the share of energy generated from renewable sources; allows the creation of brand new jobs and investment opportunities; and helps tackle the global climate change.

The authors finish their letter on a resounding note that screams common sense:

We are troubled that climate policy may increasingly be determined by the WTO and similar arenas based on unfair or inappropriate trade law, rather than on climate science and the real-world necessities of building a green economy. We urge the United States to agree to a solution that allows India to support and build its domestic solar industry, just as we do at home.

On one hand, it is gratifying to see the Sierra Club — and other organisations such as Greenpeace USA and Earth Day Network — stepping up to the plate in this way, but on the other hand it is distressing that it was necessary at all: common sense suggests that the United States should be able to view the renewables industry in the context of a world in crisis, rather than just another moneymaking opportunity.

Organizations that signed the letter are:

  • Sierra Club
  • 350.org
  • ActionAid USA
  • Center for Biological Diversity
  • Center for Food Safety
  • Center for International Environmental Law
  • Earth Day Network
  • EcoEquity
  • Friends of the Earth US
  • Global Exchange
  • Greenpeace USA
  • Institute for Policy Studies, Global Economy Project

Our very own Mridul Chadha has extensively covered the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission. According to Mridul, the JNNSM aims to meet its goals “through a combination of solar capacity allocated by the central government and various state governments.”

As part of the first phase of the JNNSM, Welspun Energy “has commissioned the largest solar power plant in India to date.” Meanwhile, the local states of Punjab and Karnataka are both planning solar plants as part of their contribution to the JNNSM.

CleanTechnica, and Mridul in particular, are some of the best ways to keep up to date on the impressive leaps India is making, and one can only hope that the attention brought on the American’s WTO case will pressure the country to back off.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.



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  • Ronald Brakels

    India would probably be better off without having domestic content rules for it solar industry. One reason being that domestic content rules can slow the deployment of solar capacity. It can also lead to odd situations where companies pay extra for Indian components which can result in Indian component makers not doing the work necessary to make their goods competitive on the world market. India has the potential to become a world leader in solar production, but this sort of thing could hold it back. If India wants to shelter its developing solar industry, domestic content rules are probably not the best way to do it. If current domestic content rules had applied to thin film, India probably wouldn’t now be leading the world in low cost utility scale installation.

    On the other hand, this is not worth people getting their panties in a twist over it. Getting into some sort of trade dispute over this is not likely to help anyone. The US response should probably simply be, “I think you’re making a mistake, but I’m not going to waste my energy trying to stop you.”

  • http://twitter.com/aligatorhardt aligatorhardt

    The WTO benefits only the 1% at the expense of everyone else. Do not give in to their bullying. A country’s legislature is responsible to it’s citizens, not foreign agents.

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