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Clean Power CREDIT: UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM

Published on February 13th, 2014 | by Jigar Shah

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SolarWorld To US Solar Industry: Drop Dead

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February 13th, 2014 by  

By Jigar Shah, President of CASE, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, and a world-leading cleantech champion

It makes so little sense that it reads like a round of Madlibs: a German company brings a trade case in the United States that claims to be protectionist but would result in severe domestic job losses and industry contraction.

CREDIT: UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM.

That’s the mad game that German solar manufacturer SolarWorld is playing with the US economy. Ahead of tomorrow’ preliminary ruling by the International Trade Commission on SolarWorld’s petition to have tariffs imposed on solar hardware from US ally Taiwan, it’s important to spell out the consequences of such reckless action.

There’s no clearer picture of what’s at stake than the Solar Foundation’s 50-state breakdown of solar jobs in the United States, released just this week: more than 23,000 new solar jobs were created in 2013, lapping national job growth by a factor of ten. Few areas of the American economy have burned brighter in the past five years than the one powered by the sun.

Of the 23,682 solar jobs, only 100 came from solar panel manufacturing – this after SolarWorld’s first trade case was decided at the end of 2012. Now SolarWorld is back trying the same old tactic. Einstein once described this behavior as insanity, “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

The American solar jobs that are growing like hot cakes are the ones President Obama championed in his State of the Union address: solar installation jobs “which can’t be outsourced,” and the sales and distribution jobs which drive these rooftop installations.

Clearly, SolarWorld’s approach to growing the domestic solar manufacturing industry is not working. What we need is a US Solar Industry that continues to grow at upwards of 24,000 new jobs a year. In fact, it’s more of a feature than a bug: by driving down prices to make solar attractive to American homeowners, international manufacturing is driving the creation of these installation, sales, and distribution jobs. Between 2011 and 2012, solar system prices declined 44%. It’s no coincidence that US solar capacity grew an eye-popping 71% over the same period.

As with any product, Americans will adopt solar at a certain price point. In the case of solar, it’s usually a matter of being able to beat the cost of local utility power, enabling the homeowner to save money on monthly electric bills. By increasing the cost of solar, SolarWorld’s petition threatens to price the entire industry out of the marketplace for electricity – without encouraging US solar manufacturing.

After years of being derided as too expensive to become a significant part of the US energy mix, solar’s growing affordability has unlocked incredible demand for a cleaner, cheaper alternative to utility power.

The United States has found its natural role in a global solar industry, and no matter what SolarWorld thinks, that role is not in manufacturing. To pretend otherwise is to play a dangerous game with the US economy.

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.



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About the Author

is author of Creating Climate Wealth: Unlocking the Impact Economy, 2013 Icosa Publishing. Shah unlocked the multi-billion dollar worldwide solar industry with a business model innovation (Power Purchase Agreement), not a new technology. This model created SunEdison, the largest solar services company worldwide. Jigar Shah has shown that business model innovation applied to the biggest challenge of our lifetime – climate change – will unlock a $10 trillion dollar new economy. After SunEdison was sold in 2009, Jigar served through 2012 as the first CEO of the Carbon War Room —the global organization founded by Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite to help entrepreneurs address climate change. SunEdison and Carbon War Room proved that we could make positive change through business and financial model innovation in many industries. Today, as CEO of Jigar Shah Consulting, he works with global companies in a multitude of industries to deploy existing clean energy solutions fueled by new business models.



  • YYZBuckeye

    Your analysis is fundamentally flawed. SolarWorld argued an antitrust case of illegal “dumping” by the offender (in this case China) in the solar panel market. The very nature of “dumping” is that the offender intentionally sells the product below market price and at losses to intentionally drive down the price and drive competitors out of business, all while in this case the offender’s government is backing the country’s solar manufacturers with subsidies to absorb the losses so their companies won’t fail. So, prices are ARTIFICIALLY low due to the dumping and prices will just get back to what they should have been with a more level competitive playing field. Also, the 15%+ increase is prices to get back to this more competitive pricing landscape is NOT going to kill the US solar industry as that is _nothing_ compared to the fact that panel prices have plummeted in half or more since 2007 and are projected to fall by likely another 50%+ out to 2025 due to better manufacturing due to technological advances as well as larger economies of scale.

  • YYZBuckeye

    Your analysis is fundamentally flawed. SolarWorld argued an antitrust case of illegal “dumping” by the offender (in this case China) in the solar panel market. The very nature of “dumping” is that the offender intentionally sells the product below market price and at losses to intentionally drive down the price and drive competitors out of business, all while in this case the offender’s government is backing the country’s solar manufacturers with subsidies to absorb the losses so their companies won’t fail. So, prices are ARTIFICIALLY low due to the dumping and prices will just get back to what they should have been with a more level competitive playing field. Also, the 15%+ increase is prices to get back to this more competitive pricing landscape is NOT going to kill the US solar industry as that is _nothing_ compared to the fact that panel prices have plummeted in half or more since 2007 and are projected to fall by likely another 50%+ out to 2025 due to better manufacturing due to technological advances as well as larger economies of scale.

    Please do your homework before writing such an inherently flawed and biased article against arguably one of the best solar panel manufacturers in the world that is fighting to ensure a level playing field.

  • Guest

    Your analysis is fundamentally flawed. SolarWorld argued an antitrust case of illegal “dumping” by the offender (in this case China) in the solar panel market. The very nature of “dumping” is that the offender intentionally sells the product below market price and at losses to intentionally drive down the price and drive competitors out of business, all while in this case the offender’s government is backing the country’s solar manufacturer’s with subsidies to absorb the losses so their companies won’t fail. So, prices are ARTIFICIALLY low due to the dumping and prices will just get back to what they should have been with a more level competitive playing field. Also, the 15%+ increase is prices to get back to this more competitive pricing landscape is NOT going to kill the US solar industry as that is _nothing_ compared to the fact that panel prices have plummeted in half or more since 2007 and are projected to fall by likely another 50%+ out to 2025 due to better manufacturing due to technological advances as well as larger economies of scale.

    Please do your homework before writing such an inherently flawed and biased article against arguably one of the best solar panel manufacturers in the world that is fighting to ensure a level playing field.

  • Guest

    You’re analysis is fundamentally flawed. SolarWorld argued an antitrust case of illegal “dumping” by the offender (in this case China) in the solar panel market. The very nature of “dumping” is that the offender intentionally sells the product below market price and at losses to intentionally drive down the price and drive competitors out of business, all while in this case the offender’s government is backing the country’s solar manufacturer’s with subsidies to absorb the losses so their companies won’t fail. So, prices are ARTIFICIALLY low due to the dumping and prices will just get back to what they should have been with a more level competitive playing field. Also, the 15%+ increase is prices to get back to this more competitive pricing landscape is NOT going to kill the US solar industry as that is _nothing_ compared to the fact that panel prices have plummeted in half or more since 2007 and are projected to fall by likely another 50%+ out to 2025 due to better manufacturing due to technological advances as well as larger economies of scale.

    Please do your homework before writing such an inherently flawed and biased article against arguably one of the best solar panel manufacturers in the world that is fighting to ensure a level playing field.

  • Guest

    Your analysis is fundamentally flawed. The argued a case of “dumping” which by nature means the offender (China) is illegally selling produt below market with the intent of driving down prices and driving competitors out of business, all while the offender in this case has government backing to absorb losses. I have seen many articles lately calling for the “death” of the US solar industry because prices that are ARTIFICIALLY low due to the dumping are going to go back up to where they likely should have been. And, the US solar industry is going to be just fine long-term with even as I have seen discussed 15%+ increases in panel prices because prices have already plummeted in half or more since 2007 and are project to drop potentially in half again by 2025.

    Please do your homework before making such blatantly biased claims.

    Cheers!

  • Joe Morinville

    I stand with US Mfg. The case against the Chinese is undeniable. Supporting dumping of heavily subsidized modules in the US is a short sighted viewpoint. Yes it will continue to drive costs down on the short term but once all the competition is gone, do you still think the Chinese will continue to sell the US solar panels at a loss? Don’t be so naive Jigar. They will increase their prices and we will be in no position to compete with them.

    The simple solution is to change the ITC requirements to only grant the tax credits to 100% American Made equipment or some similar standard that reaches far beyond the farse that is ‘ARRA compliant’. This way if you want to use the US tax payer paid subsidy, you must use the US taxpayer to build your equipment. I will 100% guarantee that every worldwide mfg will build plants in the US if this is passed, much the same way that hundreds of quasi mfg plants started up to ‘make’ or rather relabel, ARRA compliant panels after the stimulus. They will bild it because they have to to compete. You will have a massive solar job boom in MFG in the US and the US taxpayer will be the ultimate beneficiary.

    • aaron

      @joe morinville, Your data is outdated. Yes, Chinese firms were selling below cost a couple years ago, and that issue was addressed through the AD/CVD decision. However, as you can see from publicly available data, gross margins for the Chinese manufacturers are quite positive. An ASP of around 70c/W is well above the current COGS for all of the manufacturers. So, your point on dumping is simple put, currently false.

      • Joe Morinville

        Apparently I misunderstood the Jan 6th article in this publication stating China withdrew support for 75% of its mfg? This would mean China is in fact subsidizing its mfg and chose 25% to continue to subsidize so they can continue to undermine the world market. If a company is receiving direct government subsidy at the manufacturing level, then the product is coming off the line below true market cost. The Chinese did the same thing during the Clinton administration with steel. They made a valiant attempt to destroy the steel industry in the US, some would say they succeeded.

        • A Real Libertarian

          Everything is subsidized.

          You want to talk about subsidies, how about American agriculture?

  • Ken Stadlin

    Jigar,
    I supported the original CASM position even though it went against the interests of my installation company because I believed (past tense) that the CASM position was accurate. There is no question that the Chinese violate the free-trade policies of the WTO in every manufacturing industry. With government subsidy, state-owned corporations, overt currency manipulation, no environmental standards, closed markets designed for export-only trade, and predatory pricing, the Chinese have established that they do not adhere to the principles of the WTO agreements that govern global free trade.

    I’ve never believed that Solar World was anything more than a corporate opportunist trying to manipulate the system for their own advantage. I sided with them originally because I believe the case against the Chinese manufacturers was undeniable. A simple test to verify this position is this; If any foreign solar manufacturer developed a module that was 50% efficient and sold for 25 cents per Watt would they be able to export a single module to China? The answer is no. Chinese trade practice would require that the company manufacture in China and likely transfer the technology to the Chinese partner, where the economic returns from innovation would be systematically be stolen and distributed throughout China.

    The only rational argument that Solar World could make for this second round of filings is that the reimportation of Taiwanese cells to Chinese module manufacturers was implemented as a technical means to bypass the original tariffs. This would be a narrow filing and would keep the tariffs focused only on the original intent.

    By expanding the filing to target Taiwanese cell and module manufacturers Solar World has ceded any moral high ground in this argument. Taiwan is a participant in the WTO with open markets. They are a free trade partner with the United States. Any tariffs imposed directly against cells and modules made mTaiwan and other free trade compliant nations is unjustified and undermines the principles supporting the original complaint.

    If the Commerce Department allows anything beyond this to be implemented they will have allowed Solar World to use them as an unwitting stooge for a scheme to manipulate the US solar market in their narrow self-interest.

  • aaron

    SolarWorld is not in this mess because of Chinese competition. Its own business decisions have left it in a hole, and now SolarWorld is looking for a scapegoat. In an industry where 72-cell and 1000V panels are basic requirements in utility-scale deals, SolarWorld does not produce either. In an industry where the Zep-frame module accounts for approximately 50% of residential installations, SolarWorld has never even attempted to create a Zep-framed module. These are signs of a company with serious leadership issues, and SolarWorld’s downfall will be of its own making. Unfortunately, as the article alludes to, it sounds like SolarWorld will attempt to drag a lot of other people down with it.

    • ajbrowne68

      The issue is about China’s mercantilist trade policies, not necessarily about SolarWorld. In addition, SolarWorld was not the only U.S. based company that went out of business because of dumping by Chinese solar panel manufacturers. The U.S. should never allow illegal trade practices by foreign countries to devastate an industry like it has in the past. China’s clean energy policies have been known to be in contravention of WTO rules and regulations for years, but the U.S. government did nothing about it until the damage had already been done. China created its solar industry through protectionism and huge subsidies and the U.S. can do the same to regenerate its own solar panel manufacturing industry.

      • aaron

        @ajbrowne68, your point on China’s protectionist policies are well taken; however, you fail to address the point that SolarWorld specifically is ill equipped to argue that it is a victim of China. Let’s have another U.S. firm stand up and say they’ve been harmed, because SolarWorld only has itself to blame. Which of my original points can you refute?

        • ajbrowne68

          SolarWorld is not ill-equipped to argue that it is a victim. They manufacture and sell their panels in the U.S., so Chinese dumping is injurious to them. Should they wait until they are actually out of business before trying to protect themselves from illegal dumping? How exactly did SolarWorld bring Chinese dumping upon themselves? The U.S. firms that are not complaining are either out of business or have shifted their manufacturing to China. Letting future industries like solar slip out of our fingers is not a way to create good jobs and bowing to mercantilism will only lead to more lost industries, more lost jobs, and a lower standard of living for people in this country.

    • Sam

      Solarworld is trying to promote is regressive & protectionist policy that is driving up prices & decimating the relatively fledgling solar industry. Just look at how EU market/consumers were negatively impacted within months of implementing the EU-China agreement. Even the Merkel government which initially favored on Eu Prosun (SolarWorld backed) proposal quickly reversed it’s position after realizing its devastating effects on solar industry. While 14 EU member countries were opposed to this type of protectionist approach, there were only 4 who wanted go ahead and impose these tariffs. In just 6 months, the German solar market got decimated & Solarworld did nothing to help.

      Now let’s look at the two main arguments for their US proposal:

      1) The China state subsidies to Chinese manufacturing firms is what caused this turmoil?
      The idea that China is financing an export campaign – that somehow the Chines state subsidies is what caused all this is ridiculous. Fact is – many uncompetitive Chinese firms (Suntech, LDK etc) just like many in US and EU ones suffered as much. The Chinese govt aid to their firms is no different from Obama administration aid to Solyndra’s and others much alike during the boom times. The issue is not whether they got subsidies or not. We know everyone got it (including Solarworlds & Solyndras). The issue is – Who was the most competitive globally, even after receiving those subsidies? And although one can cry ‘sour grapes’ & blame the other side (like Solarworld relentlessly is), I think we all know the answer to that question now.

      2) The Chinese firms are dumping products in the US market to drive domestic manufacturers out of business?
      What exactly is the case for anti-dumping here? The Chinese module manufacturing costs are in mid 50s while their average selling price in US is in low 70s. So it hard to argue that they are dumping especially since average selling price in China is far lower (in the low 60s). The US businesses that were able to take advantage or adapt to this change are thriving (SolarCity, SunPower etc). So its hard to see any anti-dumping argument here. Imagine the havoc it would wreak on businesses & economy here in US, if we suddenly banned all ‘Made in China’ goods. This Solarworld proposal is essentially akin to essentially asking the same for solar industry.

      It’s time we moved on past this nonsense & lay a long term foundation to make the best solar technology in the world, available here in US at the most competitive price point to enable greater adoption for the benefit of US energy consumers. The Chinese are able to do that profitably at $1.50 per/watt & the Germans are able to do that for less than $2.30 per/watt and soon the whole world will be doing the same. So instead of listening to Solarworld we should seize this moment to chart a sensible path to harness this abundant source energy in the 21st century – for our children!

      Another fact is that many of these Chinese companies are listed on NY markets and open to US investors taking advantage from their growth, which ultimately contributes to US economy. Solarworld is not a US company & not listed in US. It is purely a German company trying to meddle with American policy & single handedly out to destroy thousands of jobs for hard working Americans. Solarworld has shown no appetite or ability to save these jobs. So I think they should focus on their own competitiveness in the marketplace to serve their customers & shareholders rather than get into these policy debates. Unfortunately they’ve become nothing but a scorch-earth anti-Chinese propaganda machine.The other day they applauded DoD’s decision not to use China made panels which they had no business to do. Their stock has lost more than 99% of its value (from all time high of $66 to <$0.66 now), so I think their work is cut out.

  • ajbrowne68

    The author doesn’t have a clue about what creates good, well-paid jobs for middle class Americans. Moreover, simply buying solar panels from China is not the U.S.s “natural” role, especially given that China achieved its competitive advantages through artificial means. Furthermore, he doesn’t bother to explain why there were so many more installer jobs created then manufacturing jobs. The answer is that China’s mercantilist policies and dumping devastated the U.S. solar panel manufacturing industry thus putting dozens of companies out of business and thousands of people out of their jobs. They did this by manipulating their currency, providing illegal subsidies directly to exporters, giving artificially cheap loans through state-owned banks to Chinese solar panel manufacturers, paying the manufacturing companies bills, monopolizing rare earths and restricting their export, etc. Allowing China to just make everything for the U.S. is clearly not something that the U.S. government should do despite all the nonsense that is spouted by free trade advocates. The U.S. will only put its self in decline if it allows its manufacturing sector to wither and disappear. This would leave the country completely dependent on China for just about everything that it needs, including the building of its infrastructure. The idea that the author supports, that of letting China make the panels for the U.S., runs counter to the policies that every country that ascended to economic prominence in the last 200 years followed.

    • Sam

      You sound like Rip Van Winkle who just woke up from years of sleep!
      The US has already allowed its manufacturing sector to wither. That train has already left the station years ago. Look around you right now & see how many things say ‘Made in China’. What’s so different about solar panels to create so much hoopla. Perhaps you might do well to save what jobs you can, that can’t be outsourced and get out the way of your fellow countrymen who want to save a buck or two.

      • SolarPod

        I agree with Sam. The train has left for mfg. The top brasses in the world have carved what each country will specialize in. For example. US will specialize in aircraft mfg., military mfg., entertainment, education and politics. China does not do much on aircraft, worldly education, politics and entertainment. India will do IT and Tech Support and pray for the rest of the world. UK will do nothing and take credit. The middle East will sell oil. Russia will sell oil and commodities. The rest of the world will go around and find their niche. Much like the US airline industry. Atlanta and Minneapolis goes to Delta. Chicago goes to United and Dallas goes to American. I just have to like the “Free” world the way it is being carved. Or am I seeing the carvings incorrectly?

        • http://jbsnews.com/ John Brian Shannon

          Well, as long as you and I — and everyone else in North America — work in “aircraft mfg., military mfg., entertainment, education and politics” things will be just dandy, won’t they?

          • SolarPod

            I really would like to disagree. But realistically you are right.

            Even the agriculture is divvied up. Corn and Soy Bean in the US. Rice to Asia, Wheat to Russia, Bananas to South America, Ginseng in the US, Grapes in Spain, Olives in Greece, am sure the list is endless.

            The biggest of all industries, finance, creme de la creme of industries, belongs only to the US and Switzerland. There is only one country in the world that has the reference currency and can produce as much as they need while the rest of the world references it. And the Swiss will plead neutrality and hide all of this SAFELY.

            Am sure George Orwell is laughing his way !!!!!!!!

        • ajbrowne68

          China is building its passenger jet industry, with the help of GE, so that by 2016 it will no longer buy Boeing 737s or the comparable Airbus model. They will also export their aircraft to other countries and compete with the likes of Boeing and Airbus, so they are focusing heavily on building their own aircraft manufacturing industry. Naturally, they will want to enter the U.S. market with their jets and will use the same predatory trade policies to make their jets cheaper and more competitive which will put pressure on Boeing to decrease costs and most likely ship more manufacturing jobs to China. Do you know that China is actually making a large number of parts for Boeing’s aircraft now. So, they have devastated the U.S. solar panel manufacturing industry and they have their eye on the passenger jet manufacturing industry, and they will begin exporting automobiles in 2016 as well. In addition they are even building components that are used in U.S. military equipment. So, what will be left for the U.S. to specialize in?

          • SolarPod

            FINANCE, FINANCE, FINANCE. – If you do not agree, then go finance your thoughts.

            Well, the company that started the czochralski process for c-silicon is now more into financing than single crystal silicon.

            If you cannot finance your products, it does not matter if you have the best products, it is not going to go anywhere.

            We have a patented simple, affordable modular solar system and probably so simple that it can drive cost down. Because of subsidies the higher priced products can sell because the customer gets more rebates from the subsidized industry than mine.

            Has anyone heard of a solar system on a gable (pitched) roof with no penetration? This will reduce costs dramatically and also preserve roof integrity.

        • Bob_Wallace

          The train has started back.

          Increased labor costs in China, increased shipping costs, and the advantage of manufacturing close to design and market has started some companies to “reshore” manufacturing.

          As panel manufacturing becomes more automated China will lose their labor cost advantage.

          • Guest

            I will like to believe it. But this is a Poker game. We do not know what the other side is going to play.

            Japan and India are investing heavily in solar.

            And we know China comes to the US to finance its companies. For example here is a very large Chinese company that has 66% mutual fund financing and the top 3 are US based:
            1.BlackRock Group Limited 4.92%
            2.Franklin Resources, Inc 3.54%
            3.Platinum Investment Management Ltd 12.00%

            So why is Finance crème de la crème?
            Goldman will finance SCTY.
            SCTY will purchase from the lowest cost (but good reliability) solar panels. This will most likely be a
            Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese company.
            They will then finance these Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies to make the solar panels.
            Goldman will make money from installation and solar panel manufacturing. GO GOLDMAN, Go GOLDMAN, GO GOLDMAN GO. If you do not work for Goldman or Goldman financed companies, tough for you.

            Another fact, 7 of the last 14 treasury Secretaries were
            from Goldman. Hmmmmm!!!!

            I love conspiracy theories. Best in entertainment. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart will love this.

            At the end what matters is how we can make good meaningful friends who look beyond money and try hard to live a truthful and honest life. I sure hope I do not have friends from Goldman. That is not my kind!!!!!

          • SolarPod

            I will like to believe it. But this is a Poker game. We do not know what the other side is going to play.

            Japan and India are investing heavily in solar.

            And we know China comes to the US to finance its companies. For example here is a very large Chinese solar panel company that has 66% mutual fund financing and the top 3 are US based:
            1.BlackRock Group Limited 4.92%
            2.Franklin Resources, Inc 3.54%
            3.Platinum Investment Management Ltd 12.00%

            So why is Finance crème de la crème?
            Goldman will finance SCTY.
            SCTY will purchase from the lowest cost (but good reliability) solar panels. This will most likely be a
            Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese company.
            They will then finance these Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies to make the solar panels.
            Goldman will make money from installation and solar panel manufacturing. GO GOLDMAN, Go GOLDMAN, GO GOLDMAN GO. If you do not work for Goldman or Goldman financed companies, tough for you.

            Some more facts
            1. 7 of the last 14 treasury Secretaries were from Goldman. Hmmmmm!!!!
            2. SCTY Revenue is $141 Million and market Capitalization is $6.15 Billion. Wow in an energy field. Nothing against SCTY. Just that Goldman can manipulate the stock price also.
            None will go to jail from the Great Recession. Because Goldman is impenetrable.

            I love conspiracy theories. Best in entertainment. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart will love this.

            At the end what matters is how we can make good meaningful friends who look beyond money and try hard to live a truthful and honest life. I sure hope I do not have friends from Goldman. That is not my kind!!!!!

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, if you would like to believe that manufacturing is starting to move back to the US then look up some information.

            Google ‘reshoring’.

            We now have a global economy and a global market. The US will simply not be the best place for everything. Other countries will use their advantages (cheap labor, abundant energy, access to raw materials, etc.) to capture certain segments.

            We took the textile business away from England and brought it to New England because in New England there were a number of streams for powering mills and it was cheaper to ship finished goods than raw materials.

            The Appalachia took the textile industry away from New England due to cheap TVA (government) electricity and cheaper labor.

            Then the textile industry moved on to other countries with cheaper labor.
            We need to do what we can do best and take advantage of what other countries can do best.

          • ajbrowne68

            The re-shoring movement is only a trickle. You’re ignoring a whole host of things that countries do that I mentioned previously which are against WTO rules and regulations that shift the balance in their favor. Your post sounds like the Adam Smith fairly tale of free trade and it doesn’t work in the real world.

          • Bob_Wallace

            China is facing a labor shortage as their average age rises.

            Chinese workers are starting to demand better pay and better working conditions. Chinese citizens are starting to demand better environmental practices.

            All of this means Chinese cheap labor is likely fading away. And that means that shipping costs become a larger factor.

            The change, if it comes, will start as a trickle.

      • ajbrowne68

        I don’t agree with the sentiment that the train has left the building for manufacturing, so the U.S. should just give up and let China make everything for us and build our infrastructure. I can be brought back, it’s just a matter of drawing a line in the sand and refusing to allow countries like China to use dumping, currency manipulation, and illegal subsidies to steal market share and put domestic companies out of business. It’s also a matter of putting the requisite policies in place and making manufacturing a priority. Those who focus on “saving a buck or two” have a very shortsighted way of thinking.

        • Sam

          You are entitled to your own opinions but not your facts.
          And here are the facts:

          US trade deficit with China:
          1985: $ 6 Billion
          1995: $ 33 Billion
          2005: $ 202 Billion
          2013: $ 313 Billion (of which solar imports are only about $2 billion but also creating @ 23k additional jobs every year)

          So you think this doesn’t look like the train has left the station. And that by ‘drawing a line in the sand’ for solars, we will fix this? And as for the other $311 billion, let’s keep USITC busy & open a few hundred more AD/CVD cases against China so we can lose several millions more jobs?

          After all we are going to create all them back here in US & well paid so they can afford to buy those goods that are several times more expensive than what the rest of world pays for? Yeah – That will surely save us billions, improve our deficits & teach those product dumping, currency manipulating, market stealing Chinese a lesson!

          And once we’re done with China, lets do the same to Mexico & bring even more jobs back.

          • ajbrowne68

            That’s right, we should…and you prove my point with “your facts.” The ridiculously high trade deficit that exists with China is more evidence that we should change our trade policies. Those deficits mean lost jobs. We have to start somewhere and it might as well be solar.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We can change our trade practices. We can use tariffs to block product imports from other countries.

            Of course those other countries will retaliate and block imports of our goods into their countries.

            We could be an island unto ourselves. You might want to read some history and find out how that worked out for India.

          • ajbrowne68

            Oh, they’ll block our exports soy beans. What do you think they are already doing in many cases? Why, for instance, does a domestically manufactured car that costs $30k to buy in this country cost around $70k in China? The Japanese market is closed to most U.S. products as is the South Korean market. Why is it that the U.S. has such a huge trade imbalance with most of its trading partners? Maybe you should do a little reading about history and find out how things really work.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Try looking at the trade imbalance with oil removed from the equation.
            Take out oil and our trade imbalance is about $400 per person.

          • ajbrowne68

            The trade imbalance between the U.S. and China is the largest in recorded history. This has disastrous effects on the U.S. manufacturing sector and has led to the loss of millions of well-paying jobs which have been replaced largely by low-wage service sector jobs. Economists such as Joseph Stiglitz believe that U.S. trade deficits are unsustainable and that the U.S. has become the dumping ground for global exports. Other economists such as Paul Krugman believe that the U.S. should do more to punish China for its mercantilist policies. In most situations such a high surplus would make China’s goods more expensive and lead to a correction in the trade imbalance, but because China constantly intervenes in the currency market to keep its currency low this doesn’t happen. So, the dollar amount of the deficit per person is meaningless what is important is the jobs that the deficit destroys.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “So, the dollar amount of the deficit per person is meaningless what is important is the jobs that the deficit destroys.”

            And how many jobs does oil destroy?

            The high cost, the expensive wars, the limits on production.

            If you want to close the trade deficit, there’s a hell of a lot better things to target then solar panels.

          • ajbrowne68

            Solar panels should be just the start.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Solar panels should be just the start.”

            No, they should be near the end.

            Solar panels are a low labor, low value added industry.

            Thus they should be built wherever they are.

            Plus they’re very important for both economy and environment. We need them now, and trying to place tariffs is stupid and counterproductive.

            And why go on about China? They’ve already got tariffs on them.

          • ajbrowne68

            A worker engaged in solar panel manufacturing makes more money and receives more benefits that someone working for WALMART, so these are jobs that will at least pay people a decent wage. Chinese solar panel manufacturers are circumventing the tariffs by assembling the panels in Taiwan, so that’s a reason to go on about China. In addition, the Chinese are using the same predatory policies in other industries. If you care about middle class people having decent jobs then you should care about what China is doing.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “A worker engaged in solar panel manufacturing makes more money and receives more benefits that someone working for WALMART”

            Very little jobs are in solar manufacturing, they’re in solar installation.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I agree that we should not let China sell their panels here at a loss to them. But we need to recognize that we engage in the same behavior with our agricultural industry.

            What I really don’t agree with is becoming an isolated economy in which we prevent imports via tariffs.

          • ajbrowne68

            That is a constant retort from folks on the other side of the argument which makes no sense because, if countries cannot be punished for breaking the rules, then why have a trade regime in the first place? What good are trade agreements and the WTO? Holding other countries accountable when they use predatory trade policies is not isolationist. Furthermore, demanding equal access to the markets of trading partners is not isolationist either.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “if countries cannot be punished for breaking the rules, then why have a trade regime in the first place?”

            To punished the poor counties for breaking the rules.

            “What good are trade agreements and the WTO?”

            To beat down potential competitors.

            “Holding other countries accountable when they use predatory trade policies is not isolationist.”

            Yes it is.

            Every country breaks the rules, so the only option is tariffs on everyone or being a gigantic hypocrite.

            “Furthermore, demanding equal access to the markets of trading partners is not isolationist either.”

            All countries are equal, some are more equal then others.

            It’s like the song goes…

          • ajbrowne68

            Oh yes, China and other trading partners who enjoy large trade surpluses are pretty beat down, aren’t they? Your comments have no substance and lack any information to back them up.

          • A Real Libertarian

            You really have no clue how the WTO, IMF and World Bank work, do you?

            China isn’t hurting because they’ve become powerful enough to ignore the rich countries dictates.

          • ajbrowne68

            I’m no expert, but I do know something about how those international organizations work, but it sounds like you really don’t.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I said nothing about enforcing trade agreements being isolationist.

  • SolarPod

    We have been saying protectionist industry cannot survive. In MN that is exactly what is happening. The installed $/W is $8.30/W for MN manufactured and $5.02/W for non MN manufactured. In fact the protectionist environment for bogus mfg has been extended for 10 more years. Which will ensure 10 more years of higher prices, not that much job creation and few kW installed. I call bogus mfg because one company has been importing from China and has been calling themselves MN Made. The argument is (1) will more jobs be created if the rebates are for installations rather than mfg. and (2) if mfg is that important it needs a lot more in way of sustainable mfg.

  • Guest

    We have been saying protectionist industry cannot survive. In MN that is exactly what is happening. The installe $/W is $8.30 for MN manufactured and $5.02/W for non MN manufactured. In fact the protectionist environment for bogus mfg has been extended for 10 more years. Which will ensure 10 more years of higher prices, not that much job creation and few kW installed. I call bogus mfg because one company has been importing from China and has been calling themselves MN Made. The argument is (1) will more jobs be created if the rebates are for installations rather than mfg. and (2) if mfg is that important it needs a lot more in way of sustainable mfg.

  • William C’est Tout

    These first generation panels are not special. It’s the greater good to humanity to reduce costs of solar power to fight against rampant fossil fuel consumption . If China is losing money on old panels (they aren’t), then that is their problem. In a few years this will be considered obsolete solar tech anyhoo. Big picture people. Bankrupt SolarWorld stock is up 12,000%. They are sticking it to the US taxpayer by using the govment as a pawn.

  • jburt56

    Short term thinking.

  • Justin

    I apologize for my ignorance on this but if these tariffs are approved who will ultimately prosper from this. It seems that these import tariffs will increase the price of solar cells therefore decreasing the availability to the US, and route more money into the US government (in the few cases of US people/companies buying these cells still). Taxes should be imposed on a society for a proven impact on a system (i.e. roads) that are used by that society and collectively it is for the betterment of that society. I also believe in taxes to pay for the military are necessary to keep the current way of life our society enjoys. That’s a whole other discussion though.
    Now if 100% those tariffs were used to offset the costs of community run Solar micro grid power stations (dreaming) eventually providing just short of free solar energy for the U.S., that might be something. But then those people and companies buying the initial Solar panels would feel they are owed more, and to a point that is rightly so. Ultimately though I am willing to look past this and if my measly contribution through buying taxed cells ultimately bettered our society and future generations as a whole in the long run…. I could die peacefully with that on my conscious.
    Unfortunately I don’t think our current government is in the position or has the inclination to use taxes for what they are for and there is too much corruptness at that level to make such a grand plan for very cheap energy.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      “I apologize for my ignorance on this but if these tariffs are approved who will ultimately prosper from this.” — that’s the key question/point.

      • Jigar Shah

        Right now, First Solar and other thin-film mfg. SolarWorld will still go out of business and all crystalline will go up $0.20/W.

  • Scotland

    OK, with this being the 2nd article in 2 days about Solar World, what is the deal here? This petition for the Taiwan inclusion is an extension of the 2011 WTO case – it is not new and just an attempt to eliminate a loophole in the 2011 case.

    Yes, most of the jobs in solar are related to installation but the real questions (largely unaddressed by this article) is whether having a distributed, indigenous solar cell/panel industry is of importance and whether other countries have improperly subsidized their companies at the expense of their foreign competitors. Both these articles have a tone that is different than the ones usually presented on this site – more akin to a hack job/smear attempt than a balanced news article (I remember a number of US solar companies were supportive of the 2011 WTO case, for example – why is Solar World alone targeted for ire here?)

    This article and the one before do not address either of which I consider to be the real issues related to the news item and does a poor job of making the only valid point – which is that overall solar installs and solar jobs might be negatively affected if the US attempt to defend fair trade in cells/modules succeeds.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      People have reached out to me interested in publishing these guest stories. I think they add to the discussion, and I actually agree that this is a counter-productive / harmful effort on SolarWorld’s part (and, to answer one of your Qs, SolarWorld is who they write about because SolarWorld is leading the charge here).

      If someone from SolarWorld’s side reaches out to present their POV, I’ll certainly consider it.

      • Scotland

        That’s a fair point but I think these articles are not up to the standard of the site quality-wise and that is my concern after this second article. Both articles pointed out (and make a big deal) that Solar World is involved in a trade dispute initiated on behalf of US solar manufacturing interests even though Solar World is not a US company – well, multinational companies are not that unusual – why is that such a key point? The first article mentioned the lifestyle of the owner – again, relevance…? The first article mentioned a conspiracy theory about Mid-East investment in Solar World and I don’t recall any other article about cleantech in the Middle East having this (completely unsubstantiated) angle. This article does not go into any reasons why the US is pursuing the original 2011 WTO case (i.e. lacks balance), has an over-the-top headline, and argues its main point badly. If the signal to noise ratio starts shifting toward lower-quality articles that do not seem to handle news in a balanced manner, then, speaking for myself, I know I will find it less likely that I will frequent the site. Other readers may feel the same way (or may not, who knows?)

        I like this site a lot because, though the site is in favour of clean tech, it generally presents news in a balanced manner, the articles are of a good quality and the readers comments are often as educational as the articles. I know there can be exceptions, but I would like to see the guest articles held to (or held closer to) the same standard.

        Anyway, apologies on the rant….

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Hey, no worries. We have differences of opinion. But Jigar Shah is widely regarding as one of the solar industry’s most notable figures. Regarding his style of expressing his opinion about this, I like it. Yes, he gets a bit personal, but this is all to draw out the fact that SolarWorld’s “concern” about American jobs is a little odd.

          I appreciate the feedback. I pay close attention to such feedback and take it into consideration. But on this specific matter/story, I respect and align with Jigar’s opinion and approach a great deal.

          That said, again, if SolarWorld wanted to present its opinion on this matter, I’d be fine publishing it. I do realize there are differences of opinion within the industry on this.

          • Don Osborn

            Thank God we have people like Jigar ringing the bell. We have a REAL success story in the US with the rise of PV jobs — mainly sales, engineering, and installation. These jobs can not be outsourced and are helping to meet so many important US Goals as well as feed our families. I take real and personal issue with Solarworld on this as well. Jigar, KEEP IT UP!

      • http://jbsnews.com/ John Brian Shannon

        Hi Zachary,

        I certainly agree with you on publishing guest stories, which often broaden the discussion and generally add to the content at CleanTechnica – “The best renewable energy website in the world”

        However, I respectfully disagree with the writer, as Jigar Shah is comparing apples with oranges.

        On the one hand, he is talking about solar panel manufacturing related jobs — and on the other, he is talking about solar panel installation jobs.

        They are two separate sets of numbers.

        Assuming the present trends continue, eventually, only China will be manufacturing solar panels, as no country will be able to compete with that statist economy and their massive state subsidies for manufactured products — not to mention its ~800 million workers.

        (Whether it is free land for factories, near zero environmental controls, little worker protection, low health standards within company towns, or anything which adds to the cost of the final product, those things are not regulated in China, at present)

        Are we willing to be a party to that by our inaction?

        Assuming China takes over 100% of the world’s solar panel manufacturing, that will have absolutely nothing to do with how many installer jobs remain in the United States.

        But China taking over 100% of the world’s solar panel manufacturing, will have quite a lot to do with removing solar panel manufacturing in the U.S., Canada and Europe!

        If you’re not a U.S., Canadian, or European solar panel manufacturer, or employee, then I guess it really doesn’t matter.

        But if you are, it will matter. Perhaps quite soon.

        Solar jobs are not all about installers. Solar manufacturers also provide jobs and are merely asking for a level playing field.

        I don’t blame China one bit for trying to maximize every sector of it’s economy — we would do the same, were we in their situation!

        But from our side, thousands of North American and European jobs will be lost due to ‘Chinese panel dumping’ — unless firm-but-fair tariffs, or restrictions on the number of panels imported from statist economies, are enacted.

        If we dither for a year, there may not be much panel manufacturing left here to save.

        Keep up the great work, Zachary and the rest of the CleanTechnica team! JBS

        • Jigar Shah

          The question is not whether we want mfg in the USA, of course we do. The question is whether the SolarWorld trade case will yield that outcome. Every solar economist in the world that is an expert on solar mfg costs agree that this trade case will lead to higher module prices in the USA and no additional mfg.

          We should be working together to figure out solar mfg in the USA through policies like SEMATECH.

          • Scotland

            Thanks, Jigar, for replying. I wish more of the info that Mr. Shannon and you are discussing here was included in the original article.

            Though I agree with you that allowing unfettered imports of Chinese produced cells/panels reduces prices to end customers in the short to mid term, if China becomes the sole producer of cells/panels, then we will have traded the OPEC cartel in the oil age for China in the solar powered age. Giving any one country, region, or manufacturer too much market power has consequences in the long run.

            For example, China has monopolized production of rare earth metals and until recently (last couple years) did not abuse the position they were in. However, when they got in a dispute with Japan, they stopped rare earth exports to Japan practically overnight for a period of several months – which had serious impacts to the Japanese electronics industry. If China monopolizes solar cell/panel production (and there is not a healthy diverse number of suppliers worldwide), then the risk is that similar manipulation for political or economic means could play out in the future.

            Is the US/WTO/Solar World suit the best way to address this? Maybe not – but from my perspective the risks are real and the argument that a short term bump in US solar prices might assure continued supply and a healthier solar supply in the long term appears to be legitimate and not one that is easily dismissed.

            Do you have another article that presents the options and tradeoffs or would you be willing to do a follow-on article (or point us to where more info could be found)? I would be interested to hear more about that.

            Thanks, Zach and the CT team – your responsiveness and interaction with your readership are first rate!

          • Jigar Shah

            Agree, so then how do we get the Obama Administration to step in a do something about this? I would suggest that folks should use this note as a template and write something to their local newspaper about how we actually need a US mfg strategy not chaos and uncertainty.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We process silicon in the US. We build the machines that build the panels in the US. China can control manufacturing (near) monopoly only by continuing to be the lowest price producer.

            If, for any reason, China’s price were to increase we could be back in the game in months.

            Just like rare earth metals. China was the major/sole producer only as long as they could provide the market with all the REMs the market wanted at the lowest price. Once China tightened up on supply other companies, including the US and Canada, got back into the REM business.

          • A Real Libertarian
          • Bob_Wallace

            Aside from any sort of pressure from Chinese workers to receive better pay one can tell that labor costs are going to rise. Chinese companies are building factories in more inland areas where labor is easier to find. That says that they’ve attracted about all the workers they can to the coastal factories with the salaries they’be been paying.

          • A Real Libertarian

            And that’s just going to put the labor uprisings in overdrive.

          • Leeman

            Not with out China, it would be too costly to manufacture in the US.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ever hear of a company called First Solar?

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          Thanks. I appreciate your perspective, greatly. I still agree with Jigar on this, and appreciate that he has chimed in regarding the economic impacts.

          I’d also just clarify again that this extends the penalties to countries beyond China.

          Thanks, again. :D

  • jburt56

    I disagree.

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