Industry Trend Analysis - Quick View: ITC Injury Finding Triggers Major Uncertainty For Solar Industry - OCT 2017

The Latest: On September 22, with a 4-0 vote, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that import volumes of "Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cells (Whether or Not Partially or Fully Assembled Into Other Products)" caused or threaten "serious injury" to US manufacturers of products that are in competition with cheaper solar photovoltaic equipment produced abroad. The ITC's ruling comes in response to the filing of a petition under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act in April by US-based (but internationally owned) manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld. The companies claimed their recent bankruptcy was due to competition with cheaper Chinese imports.

Implications: This is the first step in a process that by January 2018 could result in the introduction of tariffs, price floors and/or quotas on cells and modules for solar power panels imported into the US. The petitioners asked the ITC for the introduction of a tariff of USD0.40/watt on imported solar cells and a floor price of USD0.78/watt on imported modules. The ITC now has to propose a remedy and submit its recommendation to President Donald Trump. The president will then have 60 days to decide whether to accept, reject or modify it.

The majority of the US solar industry and a number of power utilities and policy-makers spoke firmly against the introduction of trade penalties on imported components before today's ITC decision, arguing that an increase in equipment costs would prevent a large number of planned solar power plants from being economically viable. In particular, the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said that the implementation of the tariff and price floor proposed by Suniva and SolarWorld could lead to the loss of 88,000 jobs in the installation, sales and construction of solar plants (Suniva disputed this analysis). One independent study produced in June argued that the remedies requested by the petitioners could halve solar capacity installations projected through to 2022, resulting in tens of gigawatts (GW) of missed installed capacity.

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