U.S. International Trade Commission to Decide on Possible Solar Tariff Today
Last month, I covered news of a novel solar tariff proposed by bankrupt solar industry companies Suniva and SolarWorld Americas. Today, the U.S. International Trade Commission will decide whether to find favor in a petition to impose a tariff and floor price on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar panels.
The proposed tariff has cast a spotlight on the U.S. solar industry, with multiple affected parties weighing in on the potential outcomes and consequences of the tariff. Suniva and SolarWorld Americas argue that rising imports of PV panels took market share away from American producers, and consequently led to bankruptcies, layoffs, and ultimately damaged the U.S. industry.
But opponents of the tariff, led by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar industry, have argued that the tariff will have disastrous consequences for the industry. Namely, SEIA has argued that more than 88,000 jobs in the solar industry could be lost if the tariff is implemented, eliminating about one-third of the current American solar workforce. And according to Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the proposed tariff and minimum pricing requirements would double the price of solar panels in the U.S.
In the days leading up to the ITC’s decision, more unusual subjects have come forward to argue against Suniva’s petition. Conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), both long-time solar industry adversaries, have already called for the ITC to reject the tariff. In a letter to U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Chairman Rhonda Schmidtlein this week, a group of veterans and former defense energy professionals urged the ITC to consider U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) energy security and resiliency efforts in their decision today.
With Federal law calling for the DOD to produce or procure 25 percent of its facility energy from renewable resources by 2025, the group said in the letter that they are “deeply concerned” about the petitioners’ trade remedy and the harm it could do to the national and energy security efforts of the DOD.
“The proposed tariffs and minimum prices would double the cost of imported solar cells and modules used in utility-scale defense energy projects,” they said. “This dramatic cost-increase could potentially jeopardize the financial viability of planned and future solar investments on or near domestic military bases.”
So what should we expect if the ITC finds favor in the petition? Only two of the four commissioners must be convinced that the Suniva and SolarWorld have been injured by low-cost imported modules. A tie rules in favor of the petitioners. Should the ITC rule in favor of petitioners, the next public hearing on the remedy phase will take place on October 3. The ITC will then make recommendations to the White House by mid-November, after which time President Trump will have 60-90 days to make a final determination.
Stay tuned for SolBid’s continued coverage of what the ITC itself has dubbed an “extraordinarily complicated” case.