SolarWorld Americas announced that it has joined Suniva Inc. in filing a letter with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), making SolarWorld a co-petitioner in the highly controversial Section 201 safeguards case.
In April Suniva filed for bankruptcy protection and then nine days later filed a Section 201 with the ITC in an attempt to impose tariffs and to set minimum prices on all imported crystalline silicon solar modules. This week the ITC announced its decision to consider Suniva’s petition, triggering a response from Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA):
"The International Trade Commission’s decision to consider Suniva’s petition for a lifeline could be bad news for hundreds of thousands of American workers in the solar industry and may jeopardize billions of dollars in investment in communities across the country. Setting high price floors and exorbitant tariffs is a blunt instrument that would cripple one of the brightest spots in America’s economy.
SolarWorld, known for its role in the current tariffs levied on Chinese solar imports, became a joint petitioner in the 201 case shortly after its parent, SolarWorld, declared bankruptcy.
Juergen Stein, President of SolarWorld Americas was quoted in a press release saying, ““We have hoped and waited for serious proposals for settling the overall US solar industry’s trade tensions with China, but we have received none. Therefore, we have decided to join the case to pursue the best remedy available to us to restore fair competition in the US market.”
SEIA’s Hopper reacted to SolarWorld becoming a co-petitioner with the following statements:
"The Section 201 case is a conversation about a sector of the solar industry, not just a particular company. We look forward to working with the International Trade Commission and all stakeholders to make sure that the broader solar industry can continue to thrive and build on the 260,000 Americans now working in solar.
“The potential damage to the solar industry as a result of this petition could kill many thousands of American jobs and put a stop to billions of dollars in private investment."
This sentiment was echoed by a recently released IHS Markit market report that concludes that the “Suniva petition puts United States PV demand at risk and shakes up global supply chain, setting utiliy-scale PV costs back 2-3 years.”
Worst case scenario
According to this report, the worst-case scenario of a full implementation of the measures proposed would shrink demand for PV in the US an estimated 60% for the period 2018 to 2021. While the petition excludes domestic manufacturing of solar cells and thin-film products, there is not a lot of solar manufacturing in the US. Thin-film manufacturers like First Solar and Tesla/Panasonic, however, would stand to benefit significantly as the petition involves only crystalline silicon PV cells and modules.
The ITC will hold a hearing on injury on 15 August. Those interested in participating in the hearing must file a notice of appearance with the Secretary of the International Trade Commission by 9 August. The remedy hearing will be held on 3 October, and the deadline for requesting to appear at that hearing is 27 September.
If the ITC determines that imports are causing injury to US producers as Suniva/SolarWorld contend, then the decision as to appropriate remedies is up to the President, who will have 60 days to make a decision. Ultimately, that decision could affect module prices as early as December 2017. Letters can also be sent to the ITC, Congress and to the Trump Administration.
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor, Solar Novus Today