SolarWorld, a German-based manufacturer, has introduced a petition with the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce seeking to impose additional antidumping (AD) and countervailing (CVD) duties on imports of solar products from China and Taiwan. Interestingly, the petition aims to relieve U.S. solar panel manufacturing companies from imports that are sold in the U.S. at less than fair value (“dumped”) or allegedly benefit from subsidies in China or Taiwan. However, the petition could increase material costs and have significant impacts on the broader U.S. solar industry.
The U.S. solar industry grew ten times faster than national job creation last year and now employs over 150,000 Americans. Solar can now compete head-to-head on cost with other forms of electricity generation, such as coal and natural gas. Due to uncertainty caused by the trade case, prices for material components of Solar PV products have begun to rise. As these costs increase, the overall cost per installed watt will increase, hamstringing America’s booming solar industry.
While U.S. manufacturing of solar panels should be a goal, keep in mind that of the 20,000 solar jobs created last year, only 100 were in manufacturing. Tariffs would increase prices, not usher in a thriving U.S. solar panel manufacturing industry. Jobs across the country in solar installation, project development, maintenance, finance, as well as manufacturing of complementary products like racking systems and inverters, would be at risk.
I’m encouraged by the involvement of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in pushing for a solution to this petition. SEIA has taken an active leadership role in developing an industry-supported proposal that would return certainty to the American solar market and alleviate the threat of tariffs. If the parties will come together for negotiations, we can create a sustainable ecosystem for all segments of the U.S. solar industry, including panel manufacturing, to grow.
The Department of Commerce recently announced that it would delay a preliminary decision on the trade case until June.
Would new tariffs help or harm the overall U.S. solar industry? What are your ideas for negotiating a settlement to this trade dispute?