Published on July 27th, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill0
Energy Trade Action Coalition Formed To Combat Anti-Trade In Solar Industry
July 27th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
A new coalition formed to combat imposing tariffs on imported solar products has been launched this week, the Energy Trade Action Coalition made up of a group of companies, associations, and organisations dedicated to fighting the trade petition including, surprisingly enough, two conservative groups, The Heritage Foundation and ALEC.
In April 2017, solar manufacturer Suniva, a Chinese majority-owned firm, declared bankruptcy, and filed a petition with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking a tariff on all imported solar cells and a price floor for nearly every imported panel. The petition was formally accepted in May, and the ITC began an ‘Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Investigation’ that it expects to conclude in September. Also in May, US solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld signed on as a co-petitioner to Suniva’s claim.
If the tariff and price floor are implemented, it is estimated that the US solar industry could face losing a third of its workforce, or an estimated 88,000 jobs, and could cut two-thirds of planned installations over the next five years.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, there are many against the ITC ruling in favour of Suniva. The newly-formed Energy Trade Action Coalition is representative of just how many are lining up against Suniva and SolarWorld, and is made up of trade associations, individual companies, and groups spanning a wide range of sectors — “utilities, co-ops, manufacturers, supply chain suppliers, solar companies/developers, retailers, local union workers, small businesses, venture capital groups, and conservative free-trade advocates.”
Interestingly enough, the Coalition includes two conservative policy groups — The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — unusual in their inclusion given their normal opposition to renewable energy and their support of fossil fuel energy generation. Both groups have opposed renewable energy development in the past, but are now joining forces with renewable energy groups to specifically help the solar industry avoid any harm. However, these more conservative members of the Coalition have chosen to sign on because they are concerned with increasing protectionist policies that they believe will do serious harm to one of the country’s growth industries.
“Tariffs meant to protect one industry can, and often do, have significant damaging effects on other domestic industries,” said Tori K. Whiting, Research Associate at The Heritage Foundation. “Imposing tariffs under Section 201, as Suniva and SolarWorld request, would be a step backward by adding another layer of federal subsidies which is something the Heritage Foundation opposes in all instances.”
“The Section 201 solar industry trade case will undermine one of the fastest-growing All of the Above Energy jobs sectors in states across the country, solar energy installation,” added Sarah Hunt, director of the Center for Innovation and Technology at ALEC. “We must avoid rewarding this opportunistic use of US trade laws.”
The Coalition will actively engage with the Trump Administration, Congress, the media, and the public, to raise awareness of this issue, and of the importance of avoiding protectionist policies which would only do harm to American energy industry competitiveness and business.
“Protectionism is never the solution for an inability to compete globally,” said Bill Gaskin, former President of the Precision Metalforming Association. “Our country’s trade laws should never be co-opted into causing widespread pain for the broader US economy.”
“Voluntary free trade is always a good thing. And it’s a good thing for every consumer; not just a few individuals or companies,” said Eli Lehrer, president of the R Street Institute. “The solar case is an example of the worst kind of trade protectionism. We’re delighted to stand for freedom and free markets.”