US Solar Industry Hits Out At “Preposterous” Claims By Suniva & SolarWorld In Section 201 Trade Case
The US Solar Energy Industries Association has hit out at a new report prepared by Suniva and SolarWorld in defence of their Section 201 trade case seeking a tariff and price floor on all imported solar components, calling the notion “preposterous” and arguing that the two companies brought the collapse of their businesses on themselves.
We first covered the trade case in question back in June, when the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) published figures claiming that if Suniva and SolarWorld were successful in seeking the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to implement a tariff on all imported solar cells and to set a price floor for nearly every imported panel, the US solar industry could lose a third of its workforce, or approximately 88,000 jobs. This was followed quickly by research published by GTM Research claiming that a successful ruling in favor of Suniva and SolarWorld — companies which are both foreign-owned, and in bankruptcy — would devastate the US solar industry, risking up to two-thirds of solar installations expected over the next five years.
The ITC formally accepted the petition made by Suniva (and later joined by SolarWorld) in May and began an ‘Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Investigation’ that it expects to conclude in September. We are also a week ahead of the first hearing with the US ITC, and things are quickly coming to a head.
On Tuesday, an economic analysis conducted by global legal services provider Mayer Brown and published by Wiley Rein claims that a successful ruling in favor of Suniva and SolarWorld — deemed “an effective remedy in the Solar 201 Safeguard case” — would result in a net increase of over 1124,800 new jobs across all segments of the US solar industry. Specifically, the authors suggest that “an effective remedy that creates the opportunity for the U.S. solar manufacturing industry to invest and grow would create 45,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs.”
The report, conducted on behalf of Suniva and SolarWorld, opens with the following claim — a claim which is in direct contrast to conclusions made not only by the Solar Energy Industries Association, but also Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Clearview Energy Partners, Goldman Sachs, and GTM:
“An affirmative finding by the US International Trade Commission and the imposition of effective remedies in its Section 201 investigation on imports of solar cells and modules would result in a net gain in employment of at least between 114,796 and 144,298 jobs for the US solar industry, including the upstream industries that manufacture critical components used in the production of solar cells and modules over the next five years.”
“We need to ensure that the next generation of solar technology is developed here in the United States,” said Juergen Stein, CEO of SolarWorld Americas Inc. “In order to have a strong solar industry, America needs to have a strong solar manufacturing industry. With growth in manufacturing will come investment, R&D, and many thousands of additional solar industry jobs here in America.”
“This is about bringing investment back to the U.S. solar manufacturing sector. A healthy industry should create jobs in the entire value chain, including manufacturing, said Matt Card, Suniva’s Executive Vice President of Commercial Operations. “This conservative analysis, using well-established U.S. Department of Commerce formulas, shows that this safeguard action can create huge impact in the manufacturing sector, even as we continue to see tremendous growth in solar installations.”
In response to the report published on behalf of Suniva and SolarWorld, Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA, has some choice words summing up her opinion of its findings, that shed light on the legitimacy and common sense of the report’s authors and their methodology:
“The notion that doubling the price of solar panels would somehow increase demand and create jobs is preposterous. Careful and thoughtful analysis, not only by the Solar Energy Industries Association, but also Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Clearview Energy Partners, Goldman Sachs and GTM, bears this out. Additionally, SEIA has spoken with dozens of manufacturers in the supply chain who ardently oppose this petition because the projected decline in demand will force them to lay off workers. SEIA’s members know what impact this will have on their ability to produce jobs; companies working in the solar industry today have been clear that Suniva’s sought-after remedy will be devastating to the American solar industry.”
Published parallel but seemingly unaware of the report, the SEIA also presented a pre-written statement to the US ITC in advance of hearings next week, arguing that Suniva and SolarWorld’s financial troubles are not simply fixed by implementing tariffs and a price floor, but that they brought the collapse of their individual businesses upon themselves. In an executive summary of the remarks written by the SEIA for the ITC, the SEIA points out that Suniva and SolarWorld were unable to produce the necessary solar modules to succeed in the ever-changing US solar market. Specifically, the SEIA highlighted the fact that utility-scale projects use 72-cell modules — a product that neither Suniva nor SolarWorld were able to produce in sufficient quantities required by the growing US solar market.
“In the utility segment, the petitioners were unable to manufacture and supply 72-cell modules required to meet demand,” SEIA said. “Therefore, to meet utility-scale demand, increasing CSPV imports were pulled into the U.S. utility market — they did not “flood” the market — to supply developers with necessary products.”
That wasn’t the end of their issues, however:
“SolarWorld and Suniva failed to fully qualify their product with major purchasers. Suniva and SolarWorld both experienced complaints from a litany of dissatisfied customers over late shipments, damaged products and general product unreliability.”
The summary of the SEIA’s statement is that Suniva and SolarWorld “cannot satisfy the legal standards required in the injury phase of the ITC’s global safeguard investigation of CSPV cells and modules.” If the ITC agrees — which, despite the overwhelming evidence and expert input in favor of the SEIA’s argument, is not a sure-fire thing given the current Administration’s propensities — the Section 201 would be dropped immediately. The ITC has to make a decision by September 22 — which, if it finds in favor of Suniva and SolarWorld, means it would need to make a recommendation to President Donald Trump by November 13, which then allows the President 60 days to act.