Report: Suniva case could slash U.S. PV market 60% by 2021 (with chart)

A new report by IHS Markit estimates that Suniva’s Section 201 trade complaint could slash U.S. PV demand 60% over the next three years.

As pv magazine reported, the bankrupt module manufacturer filed a petition to protect it from foreign competition under Sections 201 and 202 of the Trade Act of 1974. Suniva says the competition drove them to Chapter 11.

The complaint has been roundly criticized by the Solar Energy Industries Association and SolarWorld Americas (which filed previous trade charges against Chinese and Taiwanese module manufacturers). The IHS report, however, is the first evidence of the potentially dire effects it could have on the overall industry.

IHS maintains that the petition poses a severe threat to the deployment of PV in the United States through 2021, as well as to the global PV supply chain. It says “non-U.S. manufacturers of c-Si cells and modules do not know what prices they can offer beyond 2017″ and ” thin film manufacturers will be tuning their prices to reflect the potentially higher demand for their products.”

 

“Suniva’s petition to the International Trade Commission under section 201 has created great uncertainty among investors, installers and suppliers,” writes Sam Wilkinson, senior research manager for solar and energy storage at IHS. “The price uncertainty blocks the contracting process for new PV projects in the U.S. as developers are unable to commit to bid prices.”

Downstream workers in the solar industry, which created one out of every 50 jobs in the U.S. economy in 2016 according to The Solar Foundation’s 2016 National Solar Jobs Census, could be severely hurt if the petition becomes action on behalf of the U.S. government. While the complaint could save solar manufacturing those jobs, those gains would be achieved at the expense of workers in development, construction and operations portion of the industry, IHS reports.

The worst-case scenario, as envisioned by IHS, is a 60% reduction in U.S. PV demand between 2018 and 2021, causing state markets currently attractive for utility-scale development using c-Si modules in 2018 would likely fall from 43 to 32 markets. Those numbers were last seen in 2015-2016.