The Department of Commerce (DOC) decided in March to act on a petition filed by California-based solar module manufacturer Auxin Solar requesting that the DOC review solar panel imports from Chinese companies working in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam, announcing that it is launching an antidumping investigation. Since that time, the US solar industry has been in turmoil, and a recent statement from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says, “the American solar industry has ground to a halt, all at the behest of one, self-interested company that filed an anti-circumvention petition.”
SEIA estimates that the 231,000 Americans and 10,000 businesses that power the US solar industry are “the ones that will ultimately be shouldered with this burden”.
In April SEIA launched a survey for solar workers that aimed to quantify the damage caused to the industry. SEIA encouraged companies of all sizes that work in any space, from residential to utility-scale projects, to complete the survey in order to get a qualitative sense of how solar industry workers expect the anti-circumvention investigation to impact their businesses and workforce. Alongside the general survey, SEIA encouraged developers of larger-scale projects, 1 MW and above, to submit project-level data.
The numbers are in
To date more than 600 clean energy US companies responded with stories about how this investigation affects the industry and their lives. The consensus is that solar business owners and employees are concerned about their livelihoods and their ability to support their families as a result of the investigation. A single mother that has worked in the solar industry for more than a decade wrote that the decision “puts me in a state of panic about how I will survive and provide for my child.”
Another survey respondent cited that they started their solar business so they could do the right thing for their kids’ future. Just when they felt that they could grow their business to help build a clean energy future, this decision has put their hopes on hold.
Another business owner said the threat of tariffs “puts a complete stop in our workforce, our business model, and is sure to destroy the careers and livelihood of all of us here. These are hardworking Americans trying to provide for their families, but a single company’s self-interested petition has jeopardized their ability to make a living.”
In addition to jeopardizing business profits and careers, the investigation is putting projects on hold—including projects aimed at providing low-cost electricity to low-income communities. One company reported that they “put all of our existing business on hold until there is clarity.”
SEIA sees the investigation also affecting local businesses that partner on community-based projects. One company believes this decision will hurt local subcontractors that provide everything from fencing to civil engineering work on project sites. In New Mexico alone, another company expects that 1 GW of solar capacity will be cancelled, sacrificing 1,400 construction jobs.
SEIA estimates that the solar industry will lose 70,000 jobs, and that it will raise the already high prices in the solar industry.
“This is wreaking havoc on our business,” says one survey respondent, who reported a 35% increase in solar module prices and significant inflation on other materials. To make matters worse, manufacturers are cancelling their purchase orders because they do not have inventory to ship at the agreed-upon prices. Another company anticipates that their profitability will nosedive, “which has already taken a huge hit due to price increases across the board in the last 6 months.”
Small businesses in the solar industry are especially vulnerable given the challenges already facing the industry.
“This situation is devastating to every small business in the industry,” writes one survey respondent. Another mom-and-pop sales organization fears, “this will completely destroy my business.”
In summary, SEIA reports that the US solar industry is mired in uncertainty as a result of this “baseless petition will make it impossible for the solar industry to meet President Biden’s climate goals”.
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