22 Senators call on Biden to end anti-circumvention investigation


22 US Senators have composed a letter, sent to President Biden, urging the president to review ongoing Department of Commerce (DOC) investigation into solar cell and module manufacturers in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam “swiftly” and make an expedited preliminary decision, one that they hope will consider “the significant policy ramifications on American businesses, workers, and ratepayers.”

The letter references the data points first put forward by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and research firm Wood Mackenzie, specifically the expectations that a prolonged investigation with a preliminary decision to institute tariffs would mean the loss of 16 GW of planned solar projects, 100,000 jobs lost across the industry at large, and 18,000 jobs lost in manufacturing alone.

Signers of the letter include Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) showing that, as was the case with the net metering flight in Florida, the fight for a clean energy future can be a bipartisan one.

The bipartisanship of the letter was noted by George Hershman, the CEO of SOLV Energy, who issued a statement in response:

Nearly two dozen Senators from both sides of the aisle agree that it’s time to end the meritless investigation that has frozen our renewable energy progress. Tens of thousands of jobs and President Biden’s climate goals are on the line. Instead of tariffs, we need clean energy tax credits that will grow American manufacturing and solar deployment.

Just a few days before the release of this letter, California Governor Gavin Newsome sent a letter to DOC Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, laying out the devastating impact the investigation 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.”

Senator Rosen has been particularly active in urging DOC to end the investigation and reject Auxin Solar’s petition. Rosen was also at the helm of last year’s fight for the DOC to reject a series of anonymously filed petitions seeking a Commerce Department investigation into its allegations that module imports from the three countries represented an attempt by the companies to skirt existing US rules against dumping, with these petitions ultimately being thrown out. The thrown out petitions were nearly identical to this year’s Auxin petition, except they focused on specific companies, rather than the countries at large.

Yet, as successful as Rosen has been in the past, the DOC seems determined to see this current case through.

A letter that Secretary Raimondo sent just a few days ago to 14 legislators, including Senator Jacky Rosen (NV), offers the 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, the DOC is required by statute to investigate a claim that companies operating in other countries in the region are trying to circumvent existing duties. in other words, the DOC is merely doing its job.

Last week, 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.

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