With the Trump Administration, clean energy never knows where the blows are going to land. Some of the administration’s moves to prop up coal and nuclear power can be somewhat tangential to renewable energy, however the administration’s trade action on solar cells and modules as well as steel and aluminum products has been anything but tangential.
Today the office of the U.S. Trade Representative issued a list of over 1,000 items imported from China that may be subject to import duties or other trade sanctions under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.
To the great relief of inverter makers, inverters were not on the list, nor were solar cells and modules. This was despite substantial testimony by SolarWorld detailing alleged IP theft of passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) technology by People’s Liberation Army (PLA) agents, for which these PLA agents were indicted by a grand jury in 2014.
Item 85065000 “lithium primary cells and primary batteries”, is listed. However, trade expert John Smirnow has confirmed to pv magazine that this excludes rechargeable lithium-ion batteries such as are used in electric vehicles and energy storage to accompany solar PV.
There are other items on the list that include other battery technologies, however GTM Research says that the potential impact on the battery storage industry is “minimal”. The company lists 85079040 and 85079080, which cover lead-acid batteries and battery parts, respectively, as of the most concern. And while the latter includes lithium-ion battery parts, China supplies only 3% of these parts per the most recent trade data.
“U.S. manufacturers have multiple vendors in Japan and South Korea to pick from,” GTM Research Director of Energy Storage Ravi Manghani told pv magazine.
Now that the list is published U.S. trade officials will be collecting comments on the proposed 25% tariff, and the U.S. Trade Representative will hold a hearing on the subject in Washington D.C.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that lithium-ion batteries would be potentially subject to duties under Section 301, due to a misreading of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. The article has been changed to reflect that rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, such as are used in EVs and energy storage to accompany solar PV, are not included. We regret the error.