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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Fossil-fuel industry says, “Mission Accomplished!”
SEIA anti-circumvention survey is more about those “downstream ” jobs not our domestic manufacturing. So it is trying to address the lopsided “upstream” jobs that were already lost to Chinese solar panel manufacturers. We still have two largest solar panel manufacturers. One is a chronic money loser while the other is profitable but not expanding manufacturing much until recently when it finally doubled its manufacturing by the end of 2023. Overall, America produces only 5% of all solar panels we use here The question here is whether it is prudent to rely overseas for 95% of our solar panels wherever they are made?? Our “downstream” jobs like rooftop solar installment crews , community solar are the highest cost which probably makes President Biden’s climate goals seem improbable. Most of the downstream jobs serve the wealthy households who do not really require federal energy tax credits because they will already save so much by avoiding the highest tier electricity price rates charged by their local utilties with their solar rooftops. As for lower income households , there will not be nearly as much savings despite what you might read about how they talk about paying so little to the utitiles.. They forgot that they did not use as much as the wealthy households and what they saved is very little as compared to the wealthy. Our renewable programs treat all the same.. with the most wealthy getting double dips while the lesser households get the crumbs in savings. Utitlies prefer to install utility scale solar farms and manage them as their own or through cooperation with private owned utilty solar farms either way. If we deny the utilities, then the utilities will probably stick with more fossil fuels and nuclear energy which will make things worse, who knows? We are actually taking over the utilities’ owned powerlines with our rooftop solar and force them to “micromanage” every single household with what to owe or not which drive up overhead costs needlessly.. Our clmate goals should focus on the most efficient and effective costs to expand renewable energy and the wealthy can still have their solar rooftops if they want to without collecting federal tax credits. that can better be spent on larger solar projects through cooperation with utitlites. PV magazine reports countless events involving larger solar projects that used to be only utilty scale projects but are now closer to communities to save on unneeded long distance grid connections. Utiltiy solar farms are still useful as base load during the daylight hours which mean that fossil fuel generators can be turned off and saved for nighttime hours instead. This survey solicits wrong kinds of people who claims to depend their livehood on such jobs that might be lost if SEIA anti-circumvention survey finds that China must stop doing this. this is somewhat misleading to me if not to those people as well. Our domestic manufacturing had long lost countless manufacturing jobs because of Chinese dumping of solar panels that we had come to rely too much of our shaky jobs on.. It seems ..I think there is a need for a better balance between upstream and downstream jobs .. Our domestic manufacturers still went ahead to expand manufacturing capacity with great hesistation, quite obviously. Those people are understandably concerned about their jobs but they are not going to be able to achieve our climate goals by themselves because they re conributing so little so far..We had been unable to grow every year as expected probably becuase too much funds are poured into those ineffective highly labor intensive businesses that are more interested in lining their pockets than climate goals. they are not really productive themselves. Climate change is an emergency and I dont see how we can continue to lavish too much funds toward those inefficient entitites.
for much longer.. it is up to the wealthy households to keep them in business which is not the least of our concerns.. They are encouraged to install more costly rooftops themselves and keep those workers hummingalong as inefficiently and ineffectively as they want to. this is perfectly fine with me.
We need to move and grow renewable solar energ moer aggressively with less funds as possible for years to come. We need to redouble and redouble our domestic manufacturing all along. This is what it takes to achieve our climate goals. Those “threatened” cottage style rooftop downstream busiensses are not pulling their own weight themselves so they dont deserve the right to slow down our domestic solar panel manufacturing growth . I dont know if it is a strategic asset or not. I guess it is. If not, then it is a whole different story..
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