Originally Published on the ECOreport
In response to a complaint by SolarWorld, on December 17 the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) announced new anti-dumping and countervailing duties against “Chinese” solar companies and their third country suppliers. This is not as simple as one might expect. It is not certain if Chinese manufacturers will suffer. Jigar Shah, President of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) and founder of SunEdison (NASDAQ: SUNE), says anti-dumping duties will hurt the US solar industry.
“The solar industry is an international industry and that’s why these tariffs are so damaging. Tariffs invite retaliation and escalate a global trade war which benefits no one,” said Shah. “One example that if often missed in this debate: the U.S. polysilicon manufacturing industry is suffering because of retaliatory tariffs on exports to China that were enacted after the first solar trade case.”
Hemlock Semiconductor is another victim. It is closing down its Clarksville, Tennessee facility for solar silicon production due to international trade disputes.
America’s largest solar manufacturing company, Suniva, produces solar cells in Georgia, and ships them off to China where they are assembled into modules. Now Suniva may be faced with a tariff.
Many US companies are likely to be hurt by the expected raise in solar module prices, especially in the utility sector where profits are low.
Shah is not certain if anyone will benefit.
The bankrupt Silicon Valley startup Solyndra may have been the first “casualty” of the mass influx of inexpensive Chinese solar modules.
SolarWorld appealed to the DOC, which ruled in their favour in 2012.
The World Trade Organization responded by accusing the United States of violating global trade rules.
This has not stopped the DOC from imposing further tariffs.
“Whether or not there is dumping is a legal determination that I’m not in a position to answer,” said Jigar Shah. “What is clear is that the U.S. solar industry has been deploying power and creating jobs at a record rate, partly due to reductions in the cost of modules. Tariffs reverse this trend and make that growth more difficult to sustain, which is why they are bad for the U.S. solar industry.”
The tariffs are expected to be less effective against Chinese manufacturers, who will simply move on to less restrictive markets.
“We continue to urge the governments of U.S. and China to work together to reverse these tariffs and restore free and fair trade to the global solar industry,” said Shah.”Ending this counter-productive tax on the trade of green goods is low hanging fruit to build upon the recent climate change commitments made by both nations.”
(Image at top of page: Panel Install – Courtesy Darren Dingler, CC By SA, 2.0)