Coalition coalesces around fighting Suniva’s Section 201 trade case

It’s nice to know (Sir Issac) Newton’s First and Third Laws of Motion are still operable nearly four centuries after his death.

The world-renowned scientist, known to most children as the man who discovered the theory of gravity after being hit on the head by a falling apple, also proposed three laws of motion, including his:

  • First Law: Law of Inertia, which states that ‘every object in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force’; and
  • Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Proof that these laws also apply to the solar industry came yesterday, when an extensive and varied group of associations and companies came together to form the Energy Trade Action Coalition (ETAC) in direct reaction to Suniva’s Section 201 trade petition, currently pending before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and which will eventually end up on President Donald J. Trump’s desk if the ITC finds injury. It also plans to be the ‘outside force’ that lobbies against moving the petition forward.

Frank Maisano, a spokesman for the group, said that the coalition membership will consist of a variety of trade associations, individual companies and venture capital groups. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is a founding member, as is residential solar installer Sunrun. It’s not just members of the solar industry, however, who have joined  ETAC.

Other coalition members include the National Tooling and Machining Association, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the Precision Metalforming Association, Johnson Controls, Seminole Financial Services and McCalmont Engineering.  Maisano added that large retailers like Wal-Mart have also expressed interest.

This list is not all-inclusive but is representative of the industries and companies currently involved.

Additional non-association or business members include the R Street Institute, Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, among others.

“The 201 petition triggered the formation of ETAC, which is dedicated to advocating for access to globally priced products that support American energy industry competitiveness, sustain tens of thousands of good-paying American manufacturing jobs and preserve the principles of free trade in a global marketplace,” Maisano said. “ETAC will actively engage with the Trump administration, Congress, the media and public to raise awareness of the importance of how this trade petition could affect real Americans.”

Right now, the coalition is focused on the USITC hearing on the injury phase, which will take place on Aug. 15. Maisano said the group will offer comments and provide speakers for the hearing.

Dan Whitten, SEIA’s vice president of communications, said the association is glad to see such widespread opposition to the petition and is proud to be part of the coalition.

“SEIA has been vehemently opposed to this petition from the beginning, and we know there are a lot of other organizations and industries that have similar beliefs about this case,” Whitten said. “This coalition provides a coordinated platform for groups to come together to voice concerns about the harm this could cause the more than 260,000 Americans working in solar today.”

Debbie Dooley, president of Conservatives for Energy Freedom and founder of the Green Tea Coalition, lives 20 minutes from Suniva’s headquarters. She joined the coalition because she hates the petition. Dooley added she is preparing to devote a good portion of her energy to help ETAC oppose this petition.

“Suniva and SolarWorld are trying to sabotage many Americans quest for energy freedom using solar panels,” Dooley said. “They want to make it more expensive for Americans to save money on their energy bills by installing solar panels.  It is corporate greed at its most corrupt.”

For its part, SolarWorld seemed perplexed about why the coalition was formed.

“We are unclear why our opposition needs to form a coalition to prevent us from getting a fair hearing on our claim,” said Ben Santarris, spokesman for SolarWorld.  “In short, we believe the record is clear that a surge of imports is unfairly snuffing out the domestic manufacturing business that pioneered the world solar industry. Ultimately, civil servants and bipartisan appointees, not our opponents, should decide whether the surge has seriously injured the industry.”

“Without a remedy – the industry, along with its research, expertise and know-how – will disappear, and will not easily to be restored by future generations,” Santarris added.

pv magazine contacted Suniva for comment but had not received a response by press time. Should they respond, this article will be updated to reflect their thoughts.

Suniva filed for bankruptcy on April 18 and filed trade complaints against its international competitors under Sections 201 and 202 of the Trade Act of 1974 with the ITC eight days later. It asks for “global safeguard relief” from imports of crystalline silicon solar PV cells and modules. SolarWorld joined the complaint a month later.

At the moment, the USITC expects to render its decision on Sept. 22, with an official report submitted to President Trump by Nov. 13.