California Governor calls on DOC to end anti-circumvention investigation. DOC says it can’t

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California Governor has sent a letter to the Department of Commerce (DOC) Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, laying out the devastating impact the ongoing investigation into solar cell and module manufacturers in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam will have on California’s development market and ability to reach its climate goals. In the letter, Newsom asked the DOC to “resolve this issue as soon as possible and restore certainty in the market.”

According to Newsom’s letter, uncertainty regarding the investigation has already delayed at least 4,350 MW of solar and storage projects set for deployment between 2022 and 2024. In 2022 alone, Newsome is anticipating delays of over 400 MW of hybrid solar and storage projects, including 163 MW of storage that the state had anticipated to come online in September of this year.

Last week, the Solar Energy industries Association (SEIA) released updated data anticipating that the case will result in a drop of 24 GW of planned solar capacity over the next two years, which is more solar than the industry installed in all of 2021. By 2025, imposition of tariffs will cause solar capacity to fall 75 GW short of the pace needed to reach the president’s goal, equal to the size of the entire US solar market prior to 2020.

More important than just progress towards a benchmark, Newsome explains that the anticipated lost capacity will also hinder the state’s ability to deliver energy reliably, especially in light of the 6 GW of mostly gas-fired generation that California is anticipated to retire in the coming years. These retirements will further contribute to grid reliability stress, which is already an issue for the state.

Previously, California looked to tackle its issues of an overloaded grid, rotating outages, and structural damage due to extreme weather events (wildfires) by ordering a procurement of more than 11.5 GW of clean, zero-emitting energy resources by mid-decade for a total of 14.5 GW ordered since 2019. Delays have already put nearly one-third of this procurement in jeopardy.

In recognition that the initial probe was made as an effort to boost the US’s role as a manufacturer of clean energy good, Newsome’s letter also includes a promise for “unprecedented funding commitments and new avenues for permitting projects.”

While the governor’s letter and rhetoric echo much of what those across the renewable energy landscape have been saying for more than a month, a letter that Secretary Raimondo sent to 14 legislators, including Senator Jacky Rosen (NV), just a few days ago offers DOC’s perspective as to why the investigation can’t be dropped like a hot and highly unpopular potato.

The letter starts off by addressing one of the biggest criticisms of the investigation: that it is oxymoronic for an administration that used renewable energy expansion as one of its key platforms to then pursue an investigation that would essentially halt those same expansion efforts.

First, let me assure you that the Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to addressing climate change by reducing reliance on fossil fuels. We stand ready to work with you and Congress to advance legislation that would provide incentives to bolster renewable energy. In addition, the Department of Commerce stands ready to work with Congress to diversify our supply chains and develop greater domestic solar manufacturing capacity here at home.

After some case background, Raimondo identically assures each of the 14 legislators that “like all trade remedy proceedings, Commerce will conduct these circumvention inquiries in a fair and transparent manner, and in accordance with all applicable U.S. laws and regulations.” As Raimondo puts it, DOC is required by statute to investigate a claim that companies operating in other countries in the region are trying to circumvent existing duties. DOC is merely doing its job.

SEIA is still calling on companies of all sizes across every aspect of the solar supply chain and related industries to complete its Auxin Solar investigation impact survey.

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