SEIA warns that tariffs could jeopardize one-third of solar projects by 2023

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The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) warned that tariffs on imported panels from three Asian countries would jeopardize nearly 30% of the solar capacity the U.S. is expected to install over the next two years.

The Commerce Department could decide in early October whether to launch a trade investigation into solar cells and modules that are imported from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Those countries account for 80% of all panel imports into the United States.

Commerce has 45 days to initiate an investigation based on the petitions and can issue a preliminary determination at that time.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the SEIA said the duties – proposed by an anonymous group of domestic manufacturers last month – would be devastating to the growth of the renewable energy sector.

“I cannot overstate the dire threat that these reckless petitions are imposing on hundreds of thousands of American families,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO in a statement. She said the petitioners are asking Commerce to “misinterpret U.S. law” and “overturn a decade of department decisions” in solar trade cases. “We urge Commerce to use its discretion and dismiss these frivolous petitions.”

(Read “Making sense of the trade triple-threat to solar.”)

The tariffs would jeopardize 18 GW of solar projects by 2023, the SEIA said. The U.S. industry is expected to install a combined 63 GW in 2022 and 2023, according to a forecast from research firm Wood Mackenzie.

Anti-dumping

The petition from the American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention is one of several efforts by the U.S. solar manufacturing sector to seek trade remedies to allow their products to compete with cheaper Asian panels that dominate the market. SEIA for years has opposed tariffs on solar imports because those products have fueled the sector’s growth.

Solar imports face uncertainties as a trio of trade issues raise storm clouds.

Image: David Wagman

In their petition, the unnamed companies asked the Commerce Department to impose antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders on a handful of producers of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules that are imported from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The group filed three petitions in mid-August through the law firm Wiley Rein requesting that Commerce investigate what it said are “unfairly traded imports” from the three countries.

The group said that circumvention of antidumping and duties on Chinese solar products has “hobbled the U.S. industry, eviscerated our supply chains, and put our clean energy future at risk.”

Commerce could launch an investigation in early October based on the petitions. A preliminary determination could be issued in 180 days with a final determination next summer. Any duties would be retroactive to the start of the investigation.

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