Published on December 6th, 2017 | by Joshua S Hill0
US Solar Trade Case Rubs Out SunShot Initiative Achievements
December 6th, 2017 by Joshua S Hill
The recent Section 201 solar trade case that has passed through the US International Trade Commission has undone some of the progress made by President Obama’s SunShot Initiative which sought to lower solar costs to make them cost-competitive with other forms of energy.
The US International Trade Commission (ITC) announced in late September that it had ruled unanimously in favor of proceeding with the Suniva/SolarWorld Section 201 trade case, finding Chinese solar imports are “a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry,” despite the claims and evidence of virtually the entire US solar industry. Without replaying the entire issue again (you can read through the archives), suffice it to say, virtually the entire US energy industry stood against the few filing for help from the ITC.
More than just disagreeing with the filing, there was wave upon wave of proof that ruling in favor of Suniva and SolarWorld — which would require implementing solar tariffs and price floors of some level — would devastate the US solar industry. Right off the bat, the Solar Energy Industries Association explained that the industry could lose 88,000 jobs if the ITC ruled in favor, while GTM Research predicted that two-thirds of expected installations could be erased over the next five years.
GTM also recently analysed the potential impact of introducing tariffs of varying levels into the US solar industry, revealing not just the potential impact but the impact already caused by the sheer threat of tariffs.
Fast-forward to this week, and a new GTM Research report has again highlighted the impact of the threat of solar tariffs. Specifically, GTM highlights that “the triumph” of September’s announcement that utility-scale solar in the US had fallen to less than $1.00 per watt and below 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, achieving the 2020 target of the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative two years early, “appears to have been short-lived.”
In a new GTM Research report, US PV System Pricing H2 2017: Forecasts and Breakdowns, GTM solar analyst Ben Gallagher explains that despite the success of achieving the SunShot Initiative 2020 pricing target for utility-scale solar so early, “the average fixed-tilt utility-scale solar price has since edged back above of the SunShot price target, amid market uncertainty surrounding the Section 201 solar trade case.”
According to Gallagher, the average price for a fixed-tilt solar system was priced at 98 cents per watt with engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) costs below $1.00 per watt in 26 states. However, that price has jumped back up, and the average pricing for fixed-tilt systems sits now at $1.03 per watt, with only six states boasting average pricing below the $1.00 mark.
GTM Research now predicts that the US solar PV market will soon enter a fourth phase of price reductions and that between the second half of 2017 and 2022 the average US solar PV system cost will fall by 32%.
Historical and Forecasted U.S. PV System Pricing by Market Segment, 2007-2022E ($/Wdc)
The full breakdown of GTM’s latest report can be found here, but it is important to note that GTM’s base-case forecasts for 2018 and beyond do not include any future impacts from the Section 201 trade case tariffs because the specific remedies that will or will not be implemented aren’t known yet. The reality is that until the recommendations presented by the ITC are approved or modified by US President Donald Trump, the impact on the US solar industry is difficult to properly predict.