Chinese Solar Import Tariff Petition Creates Controversy – or Jobs?

Creating a fair solar power marketplace

Solar tariff Would Yield Over 114,000 New Jobs, $3.3 Billion in New Wages

As Chinese Solar PV manufacturers dominate the global market, a controversy is brewing in the wake of the recent petition filed by Suniva seeking “safeguard” protection from Chinese imports into the U.S.

The value of manufacturing solar photovoltaic (PV) energy cells, modules and panels is firmly on the radar of U.S. international trade authorities.

The US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) publically expressed strong opposition to Suniva’s safeguard petition, asserting that the imposition of new tariffs (added to those originally imposed in 2012 as a result of a petition filed by SolarWorld Americas) would raise costs and hinder the growth of solar energy capacity in the U.S.

SEIA claims such protectionist policy will result in the loss of up to 88,000 jobs, according to a recently issued a study, “U.S. Solar Outlook Under Section 201: The Trade Case’s Impact on U.S. Solar Demand.”

New Chinese solar import tariffs: boon or bane?

On August 8, Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, which has joined in support of the ITC safeguard petition, released the results of their own study. In stark contrast to GTM’s research, the two US solar PV cell and module manufacturers assert that “an effective remedy in the Solar 201 Safeguard case will result in a net increase of over 114,000 new jobs across all segments of the US solar industry.”

PV solar forecast

Responding to GTM’s analysis of its Section 201 safeguard petition, Suniva asserts that the study’s conclusions “are based on faulty and unsupported assumptions, and demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the proposed minimum prices on imported modules and cells.”

According to a June 26 Suniva press release:

“Analysis by GTM Research assumes a minimum price impact of $0.18 per watt which is a completely incorrect reading of the remedies requested in the petition – no where in the petition does it request the floor price and tariff interact in that manner. GTM made no effort to contact any of the firms supporting the petition to clarify or confirm its analysis.”

Furthermore, Suniva and SolarWorld Americas assert that an effective remedy would provide incentives for US solar manufacturers to increase their investments, which in turn would create 45,000 new US manufacturing jobs.

Opposing views and analysis

Solar 201 Safeguard will create jobs and raise wages

Continuing, Suniva and SolarWorld contend that the imposition of effective safeguard protection by the US ITC would result in:

  • Annual, year-to-year increases in US solar energy capacity from 2018 with the total more than doubling by 2022
  • An additional $2.5 billion in US economic output and $3.3 billion in new wages.

Invoking Section 201 of the US Trade Act of 1974, Suniva requests tariffs on solar PV cells in addition to those enacted in a previous unfair trade petition filed in 2012. The petition appeals for establishing a minimum price for solar modules imported into the U.S. Section 201 of the Trade Act, as amended, authorizes global safeguards investigations, also known as “escape clause” investigations.

“We need to ensure that the next generation of solar technology is developed here in the United States,” SolarWorld Americas CEO Juergen Stein was quoted.

“In order to have a strong solar industry, America needs to have a strong solar manufacturing industry. With growth in manufacturing will come investment, R&D, and many thousands of additional solar industry jobs here in America.”

Added Suniva Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations Matt Card: “This is about bringing investment back to the US solar manufacturing sector. A healthy industry should create jobs in the entire value chain, including manufacturing.

“This conservative analysis, using well established Department of Commerce formulas, shows that this safeguard action can create a huge impact in the manufacturing sector, even as we continue to see tremendous growth in solar installations.”

Commenting on global oversupply and market conditions: “Practically all non-protected markets today (ex-E.U., U.S., Japan etc.) are already dominated by Chinese module imports,” Meishi Tan, a consultant at Berlin, Germany-based cleantech advisory firm Apricum said in a recent interview. “We would not be surprised by more Suniva/SolarWorld-type bankruptcies from other small-scale manufacturers, however many remain.”

*Image credits: 1) Dama de Justicia, Pinterest; 2) GTM Research; 3) Suniva, SolarWorld Americas

Featured image photo by Andreas Gücklhorn on Unsplash

Andrew Burger
Andrew Burger
A product of the New York City public school system, Andrew Burger went on to study geology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, work in the wholesale money and capital markets for a major Japanese bank and earn an MBA in finance.

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