WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2017 - Representatives from all segments of the solar industry, including American manufacturers, testified in a remedy hearing last week before the U.S. International Trade Commission following an ITC ruling that a flood of solar panel imports from abroad had hurt the U.S. industry.
The ITC had ruled on a petition filed by Suniva and SolarWorld, which proposed large tariffs on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells.
Some key players in the U.S. industry told the ITC that those large tariffs would further harm American manufacturers.
“We believe remedies anywhere near the magnitude of those proposed would irreparably harm the broader U.S. PV industry and eliminate U.S. solar-related jobs,” said Pete Alyanakian, North American industry director for DuPont Photovoltaic and Advanced Materials.
The Solar Energy Industries Association claims the proposal, if granted, would result in the loss of between 48,000 and 63,000 American solar jobs next year alone, and between 60,000 and 84,000 jobs by 2020.
“It’s hard for us to see a scenario where these companies could get legally permissible trade relief that would enable them to compete in any market,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “Our perspective is that while trade restrictive relief is not appropriate for these two poorlyrun companies, we remain committed to supporting domestic manufacturing and are advocating for creative solutions that can resolve this deeply flawed case.”
Tom Werner, president and CEO of SunPower, explained some of the complexities of photovoltaic cells.
“Solar energy is not a one-size-fits-all proposition,” he said. “At one end, you have low-cost, low-efficiency front-contact cells. These are the products with which the petitioners compete,” Werner testified. “At the other end, you have highly differentiated products designed in the U.S. This is the case of thin film technology, as well as SunPower's unique interdigitated back-contact cells, which are made of superior raw materials and mono crystalline silicon wafers with specific n-type dopant, that command a premium price. It’s apples and oranges.”
The proposed tariffs take aim at imports primarily from China and Taiwan, the world’s top producers of photovoltaics. Fang Liu, first secretary in the Economic and Commercial Office at China’s embassy in Washington, spoke on behalf of the government of China (GOC).
“GOC strongly disagrees with the injury determination because the said determination violates the obligations under the WTO (World Trade Organization) Safeguard Agreement in many respects,” Liu said. “GOC believes that USITC would draw the same conclusion that the anti-dumping and countervailing measures on Chinese imports in place have sufficiently remedied the alleged injury which could be possibly contributed to Chinese imports.”
SEIA argued that the tariffs proposed by the petitioners violate the law. Under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, “any new tariff cannot exceed 50 percent of the value of the product as it enters the U.S.,” SEIA says. SolarWorld’s tariff proposal for cells is 125 percent (25-cent tariff on cells valued at 20 cents) and the tariff for panels is 80 percent (32-cent tariff on a 40-cent market price).
The SEIA offered an alternate proposal, which would allow the ITC to recommend that the president create a license fee system to import CSPV cells and modules. Instead of going to the U.S. Treasury, revenue from the fees would come from foreign manufacturers and be delivered directly to American manufacturers.
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