The Section 201 fight moves to tariff levels

With the U.S. International Trade Commission’s (ITC) ruling last Friday that foreign imports have seriously damaged domestic U.S. cell and module manufacturing, the first round of the fight over the Section 201 petition backed by SolarWorld and Suniva is over. The ITC will be recommending trade remedies, and these will go to the desk of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Only three business days later, the second round officially began yesterday, with trade group Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) sending a letter to the ITC on behalf of its Advanced Energy Buyers Group, calling for a “balanced approach” and for the agency to not recommend unduly high tariffs.

This group represents some of the world’s largest technology and retail companies: Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Walmart. AEE notes that this group engages on policies “to expand opportunities to procure electricity that is secure, clean and affordable”. All in all these companies expect to consume over 7 terawatt-hours of electricity from renewable energy sources in 2017, which they note is equivalent to the electricity demand in the state of Rhode Island.

“As companies with strong corporate renewable energy commitments, we believe that the imposition of excessive tariffs in this case could increase the cost of solar energy, resulting in adverse impacts for many downstream solar customers,” reads the letter. The companies also note that such tariffs would result in significant challenges to follow through on many company-level commitments to reach 100% renewable energy.

There was only one mention in the letter of the minimum price that Suniva asked for in its petition; however GTM Research has previously noted that in 19 actions taken under Section 201 a minimum price has never been imposed.

The struggle over the level of tariffs will kick into high gear next Tuesday, October 3, when ITC will hold a hearing on the level of remedies. If this is anything like the August hearing on the injury determination, this hearing is likely to be well attended and lengthy, with the injury hearing setting a record for the length of testimony.

pv magazine USA will be providing on-site coverage from next Tuesday’s hearing.