Suniva filed for bankruptcy protection on 17 April, and then nine days later filed a trade case mechanism with the International Trade Commission (ITC) to try to impose tariffs and to set minimum prices on all imported solar modules. This would add tariffs to those already imposed on Chinese modules.
Who is Suniva?
Suniva is based near Atlanta, Georgia and has manufacturing facilities in Georgia and Michigan. On its website, the company claims to be the “leading American manufacturer of high-efficiency, cost-competitive PV solar cells and modules.” (Suniva is majority owned by a Chinese company, Shunfeng International Clean Energy.)
In the past two years, as prices on solar modules dropped and demand decreased due to oversupply, Suniva was losing millions. Ultimately the company filed for bankruptcy, placing blame on Chinese manufactures who flooded the US market with cheap imports.
Why file Section 201?
Suniva’s filing a petition under section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974 is a condition of its bankruptcy. If the ITC determines that Suniva was “seriously injured” by solar imports, it can recommend to the Trump administration provide relief to Suniva in the form of tariffs on all imports in order to curb competition from manufacturers in any country other than the United States. Suniva sees this as an effort to get back into business with American-made modules.
The Solar Industries Trade Association (SEIA) is against the 201 petition. Abigail Ross Hopper, President and CEO of SEIA, released the following statement: "The Solar Energy Industries Association, representing 1,000 member companies across the entire solar supply chain, seeks to promote and protect the interests of the 9,000 U.S. companies engaged in the solar industry and the more than 260,000 American workers they employ. SEIA supports fair and free trade of solar equipment to grow the American solar industry, which is strengthening our national security and driving local and national economic growth.
An article in the Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Solar-Panel Maker Seeks Trade Tariffs on Foreign Rivals” called the petition a “last-ditch effort to survive.” SEIA and others in the US solar industry hope that the Trump administration understands that Suniva’s efforts may undermine rather than bolster the US solar industry.
A blog entitled “Throwing a Giant Wrench in Panel Prices” from UBS, the Swiss global financial services company, states that the petition “appears substantially more negative than positive for the US solar industry”. It points out the most US solar jobs are not in manufacturing, so an increase in the average selling price “would threaten the economics of incremental installations.”
The decision in this case will be made in six months, with an ITC ruling to be determined by 24 August. The ITC will have to get a report to the President by 23 October, and the determination by the Executive Branch is expected by December 2017.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today