US trade panel backs solar petition
Washington, 22 September (Argus) — The International Trade Commission (ITC) unanimously agreed today that foreign solar cells and modules have caused "serious injury" to domestic manufacturers from unfair pricing.
The recommendation could provide President Donald Trump with an opportunity to impose tariffs on foreign goods and boost to US manufacturers, which he pledged to do as a candidate. But the broader solar industry has warned that penalties would raise the industry's costs, stalling solar's growth as a clean energy source and threatening thousands of domestic jobs.
Bankrupt solar manufacturer Suniva, with support from SolarWorld Americas, had asked the US government to impose tariffs of 40¢-78¢ on imported solar cells and modules. Suniva, which declared bankruptcy in April and filed its petition a week later, said the tariffs are vital to protect US solar manufacturers.
"We brought this action because the US solar manufacturing industry finds itself at the precipice of extinction at the hands of foreign market overcapacity," Suniva said. "The ITC has agreed."
Suniva, along with SolarWorld Americas, whose German parent company is undergoing insolvency proceedings, say foreign solar parts, mainly from China, are flooding the US market and driving domestic companies out of business.
The case now moves to a remedy phase, during which the ITC will recommend what tariffs should be applied to imported solar components. The commission has until 13 November to make the recommendation, at which point it will go to President Donald Trump for a final decision.
Much of solar industry opposes the tariffs, contending Suniva's and SunWorld's woes stem from mismanagement. The Energy Trade Action Coalition, a lobbying group formed to defeat Suniva's petition, said it would encourage "administration officials and members of Congress to help ensure that no remedies are imposed that would threaten the solar industry's ability to compete with other energy sources."
Should the tariff request be approved, demand for new solar development could drop by half, leading to the loss of 88,000 jobs and a downturn across the industry, said the Solar Energy Industries Association, the industry's main trade group.