WASHINGTON, May 24, 2017 - In a decision announced late Tuesday, the International Trade Commission (ITC) decided to take a closer look into Suniva’s petition for relief from imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic (SCPV) cells – concluding that Suniva is representative of the entire domestic solar industry.
The company, which filed bankruptcy last month and filed a Section 201 petition with the ITC a couple of weeks later, claimed that existing tariffs have not been effective and that imported cells and modules had caused "significant harm" to the U.S. solar manufacturing base.
The firm – based in Georgia and majority owned by Chinese investors - wants to see new duties imposed of 40 cents per watt on imported cells and set a floor price of 78 cents per watt on modules.
The ITC investigation, No. TA-201-75, has the potential to result in a decision that would sharply increase the price of silicon cells and manufactured panels in this country, making it harder for solar power to compete, according to other industry sources.
"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,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“Setting high price floors and exorbitant tariffs is a blunt instrument that would cripple one of the brightest spots in America’s economy.
The ITC labeled the investigation "extraordinarily complicated," giving investigators extra time to make a final recommendation to President Donald Trump. According to recent news reports, that may be an understatement.
On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Suniva's creditor, SQN Capital Management, wrote to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce hinting that a buyout of Suniva's assets would alter their interest in continuing the ITC petition.
"The case would disappear if Chinese companies bought $55 million in manufacturing equipment," wrote SQN president Jeremiah Silkowski, according to Bloomberg. SQN Capital Management says Suniva owes it more than $51 million for the purchase of factory equipment it financed.
A decision is expected to be reached before September 22, with a recommendation to President Trump for his final action by November 13.