Auxin Solar Inc., a San Jose, California, solar panel manufacturer, and Suniva Inc., which owns an idled solar cell factory in Georgia, formally asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to extend solar tariffs for four more years.
The 18% tariffs were imposed by the Trump administration in 2018, and are set to expire in February 2022. They largely affect imports from Chinese-owned companies.
“Extending this safeguard is essential for America to reclaim its lead in solar energy manufacturing and development, and it represents a critical step to achieve the broader goal of American renewable energy independence,” said Mamun Rashid, co-founder and chief executive officer at Auxin Solar. Rashid said that Auxin “is committed to re-shoring the solar supply chain” and filed the petition hoping that policymakers are “committed to the promise of green energy independence and the good-paying manufacturing jobs that will result.”
Without an extension, the safeguard remedy will expire on February 6. Auxin Solar said that its extension petition will prompt the ITC to determine whether the safeguard remedy continues to be necessary and whether evidence exists that the industry is making a positive adjustment to import competition. The ITC is expected to report its determination to President Biden by December 8.
During the Midterm Review of the Section 201 tariffs, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said that about 10 GW of solar was not developed because of the 201 tariffs. It also estimated that about 62,000 jobs were not created.
Responding to the move by Auxin and Suniva to seek an extension, John Smirnow, vice president of market strategy for SEIA said in a statement, “There are no two ways about it. It is time to end the job-killing Section 201 solar tariffs.” He called them a “multibillion dollar drag on industry growth.” He said that leading domestic panel manufacturers are “thriving,” both here in the U.S. and globally. “If we hope to reach our ambitious climate goals, we must accelerate solar deployment, not hinder it with unnecessarily punitive trade measures,” he said.
In a recent webinar, Rhone Resch, president and chief revenue officer for Solarlytics and former head of SEIA, had a different view, and said that the Biden administration may keep the tariffs in place both as a show of support for domestic manufacturing and as a way to show strength in competing with China.
“The (labor) unions want this and it gives domestic protection,” Resch said.
Auxin Solar said that neither it nor Suniva have been able to complete plans to adjust to import competition. Those plans were negatively impacted by what the companies said was stockpiling prior to the tariffs, economic headwinds caused by Covid-19, alleged predatory pricing, and a “loophole” that allowed excluded modules to be imported in high volumes and at “cut-rate prices.” These challenges meant that the safeguard “did not have the desired effect to allow companies like Auxin Solar and Suniva to recover from the serious injury caused by imports,” Auxin said.
Auxin joined in the original safeguard investigation and the mid-term monitoring review. Georgia-based Suniva was the original petitioner for the tariffs and also took part in the ITC’s mid-term monitoring review.
This article was updated on August 2 to include a statement from SEIA.
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