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Home > Market > Worldwide

Solar War

With the trade petition initiated by SolarWorld that hit the global solar industry, there has been discord between the U.S.A. and China recently. Even people in the U.S. solar industry are aligned on both sides of the issue. SolarWorld insists U.S. solar manufacturers are closing factories and filing bankruptcies by Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers dumping product. Meanwhile, others have expressed broad opposition to, what they call, trade protectionism and its potential impacts on the world solar industry.

Reported by Stella Lee (pved1@infothe.com)



Solar war started as Germany-based SolarWorld submitted a petition to the U.S. Deparment of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) claiming that subsidies from the Chinese government are driving down the cost of solar panels and cells, making it difficult to compete in the industry.

China expressed concern over the United States’ anti-dumping and anti-subsidy probe into Chinese exports of solar panels, saying potential duties could hurt cooperation in the clean energy sector. Chinese Ministry of Commerce spokesman, Shen Danyang, said that the Chinese government is greatly concerned about this case and the Chinese side reserves the WTO rules to take appropriate measures within the framework of the right.

According to Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), a consortium of SolarWolrd and 6 other U.S. domestic producers of crystalline silicon, between 2008 and 2010, there has been a 310% ‘surge’ in Chinese exports to the U.S. They have brought neither technological nor cost advantage, says the coalition, which goes on to blame the Chinese for the 40 to 50% price drop in modules seen in 2011.

They insist the petitions demonstrate that Chinese manufacturers are illegally dumping crystalline silicon solar cells into the U.S. market and are receiving illegal subsidies.

The aggressive dumping as well as massive subsidies from the Chinese government have cost the U.S. industry thousands of jobs and have forced more than seven companies to close or downsize in the past 18 months.

With U.S. ITC hearings on the petition against Chinese solar, criticism follows anti-dumping petition in the U.S. U.S. and some China-headquartered companies launched Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) in response to an anti-trade action filed by SolarWorld with the U.S. government which, they claim, threatens the entire U.S. solar industry.

Kevin Lapidus, Senior Vice President Legal and Government Affairs of SunEdison talked to InterPV, “The SolarWorld trade case will undermine U.S. solar jobs, U.S. solar exports and U.S. renewable energy policy. The U.S. solar market employees 100,000 people, up 6.8% from 2010 and we forecast to grow 30% in 2012, before this lawsuit was filed.”

He added the U.S. solar industry was a positive US$1.9 billion exporter in 2010, including a positive net export of US$400 MM to China. But he SolarWorld case will increase the cost of renewable energy in the U.S., putting at risk the expansion of solar renewable energy and U.S. energy security, he insists. 

CEO Randy Bishop and President Ken Button of Verengo oppose the current SolarWorld trade complaint. “We at Verengo encourage China solar industry to make more solar panels in the United States. Instead of tariffs, let’s use increased tax credits to incentivize solar companies in China to send some more jobs to the U.S.”

They think global competition is making affordable solar energy a reality in the U.S. and around the world and protectionism negatively impacts consumers, ratepayers, and over 100,000 American solar jobs. “Both Suntech and Yingli, which manufacture a majority of their products in China, also manufacture in the U.S. China-based Canadian Solar makes some of its products in Canada. We should encourage them to set up shop here, too. No tariffs! There is no threat of tariffs against Apple, Nike and Wal-Mart. America is an open, capitalistic market, and we want to keep it that way.”

Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) expressed concern about the trade dispute’s potential impact on the U.S. solar industry. “This case could lead to significant price increases that could have a significant deleterious impact on SEMI members, many of whom are upstream providers of high value-added equipment and materials. It will also impact downstream service providers, such as installers, where a majority of solar industry jobs are concentrated.”


Take on a New Aspect


The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released a preliminary determination that dumped and subsidized solar imports from China have harmed the U.S. domestic solar industry. Now U.S. ITC will now proceed with a full investigation. The proposed punishment was duties of more than 100% on the price of imported solar panels from China.

The ITC’s unanimous ruling underscores what American solar manufacturers have argued for months: Without any production cost advantage, dumping by Chinese solar manufacturers and massive subsidies by the Chinese government are enabling Chinese producers to drive out U.S. competition,” said Gordon Brinser, President of SolarWorld Industries America Inc. and leader of CASM. “Today’s ruling further erodes the credibility of denials by Chinese manufacturers and their importer allies in this case.”

Rival group the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), on the other hand, expressed concern about the ruling, saying that the trade dispute threatens American jobs.

If Commerce and the ITC apply penalties on Chinese manufacturers, the Chinese government could appeal to the World Trade Organization by objecting to the U.S. government findings on trade remedies.

However, China is the largest holder of U.S. bonds and the U.S. exports polisilicon in large quantities to China. Due to the complicated relationship of the two countries, it proves to be still a challenge for the U.S. to impose an anti-dumping tax on all Chinese manufacturers.

Isn’t the solar war over yet?


Stella Lee is Editor of InterPV. Send your comments to pved1@infothe.com.



For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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