Here's the latest solar trade conflict update from the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. . .
The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) today joined other leading American solar industry associations and suppliers in calling for the US and Chinese governments to engage in a constructive dialogue to avert a destructive global trade war in the solar industry.
CASE’s comments come amidst news reports that China-based companies and India-based companies are seeking anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigations against companies entering their markets from the US and other countries. Such investigations would follow a process similar to the current US government investigation, instituted by firms producing PV modules in the US including, German-owned SolarWorld, which recently resulted in the preliminary application of significant US tariffs on Chinese solar cells.
“Unless cooler heads prevail, American solar companies could face even more direct and collateral damage than the 30% tax imposed on many of them last month,” said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy. “Already polysilicon companies in China are seeking retaliatory tariffs against US polysilicon manufacturers,” said Shah.
Two of the largest US solar energy materials suppliers, DuPont and Dow Corning, also came to the defense of free and global trade. These companies are not CASE members, but are both concerned about growing trade tensions in solar energy.
David B. Miller, President of DuPont Electronics and Communications, stated, “A well-developed global supply chain has helped the production of PV panels to reach significant efficiency and economics of scale, bringing quality and durability up and prices down. This is good for global consumers, and good for the expansion of solar energy, creating jobs in the materials supply chain, much of it based here in the US, and for PV installers here in the US and elsewhere. It is important that trade be both free and fair, and important that countries resolve any trade disputes in ways that minimize disruptions in this important PV supply chain.”
Similarly, Robert D. Hansen, President and CEO, Dow Corning Corporation, said, “The opportunity for solar technology to provide clean, renewable, domestically generated energy, as well as economic value and jobs is so great, that there are opportunities for all countries to benefit significantly. Trade discussions in fast-growth, new technology industries like solar, which also offer a tremendous amount of social benefit to the world, are best served by government and business leaders collaborating to develop free, fair and constructive trade policies which enable and foster growth and cooperation.”
CASE also applauds a recent statement by the US Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), an American solar industry association representing thousands of American solar companies, which expressed concern about the trade fight and called for a constructive dialogue and engagement between the US and China. “It’s sad that SolarWorld feels compelled to oppose the rest of the solar industry,” added Shah.
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, issued a statement saying, “The escalating trade conflict in the global solar industry will ultimately hurt the entire market at a time when solar energy is on the cusp of widespread adoption. Companies from all nations will be the ultimate losers. Exporters will find fewer and fewer destinations for their products. Large project developers and local installers will find it more and more difficult to source products. And consumers will see solar energy as a less competitive source of electricity. This is an absolutely unacceptable outcome.”
In addition, the Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), a global industry association representing thousands of semiconductor companies, has made a similar plea to reduce tensions and trade barriers.
“The current trade dispute is just one instance of growing trade barriers that are proliferating and encumbering the deployment of renewable energy. Other trade and market barriers have arisen in areas related to investment, government procurement, local content requirements and conflicting standards and certification requirements. PV solar and other renewable energy industries must begin the long and difficult process of developing a comprehensive and holistic world trade agreement that promotes free and open trade and accelerates adoption of renewable energy,” SEMI said in a statement.
Despite the clear consensus in the American solar industry, and appeals by CASE, SolarWorld has so far steadfastly refused to come to the table to help diffuse the destructive solar trade war. In a recent statement, Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., rejected calls to seek constructive bilateral solutions, saying that, “We do not need talks and we do not need deals.”
Many of the subsidies provided to SolarWorld typify the supply-side subsidies that could be targeted by future trade investigations, such as government-backed loans for SolarWorld exports to India, SolarWorld’s partnership with the Qatar government on a new polysilicon facility and SolarWorld’s receipt of more than US$100 million in direct industrial subsidies in Germany.
“Governments around the world have provided the solar industry with support as a bridge to help the industry mature and stand on its own feet. In particular, Germany has played a leading role in helping SolarWorld and the global solar industry become what it is today,” said Jigar Shah.
CASE remains hopeful that SolarWorld will rejoin everyone else in the solar industry, including key industry associations like SEIA, to put the interests of the American and global solar industries ahead of their own corporate interests.
“SolarWorld’s participation would be welcomed in seeking a constructive end to this destructive episode,” said Jigar Shah. “Instead of raising taxes to offset subsidies, let’s create a global free trade agreement in clean tech that ensures open market access and a level playing field for everyone. All solar industry leaders want to see a trade war averted. It’s past time to move forward and put our industry first.”