Report escalates rift within solar industry over China

The solar panel manufacturers, known as the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), called on the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Commerce Department earlier this year to impose duties on imports of Chinese crystalline silicon solar panels. The companies alleged that China is flooding the U.S. market with underpriced solar panels and illegally subsidizing its solar industry.

The petition immediately caused a rift in the solar industry, pitting the solar panel manufacturers against major solar developers and power generators. CASE argues that the duties will effectively raise the cost of solar panels and could cause a trade war with China.

If China imposes retaliatory duties on solar panel exports, the United States could see 11,000 more job loses, according to the report, which was authored by the Brattle Group.

“We cannot allow one company’s anti-China crusade to threaten the U.S. solar industry and tens of thousands of American jobs,” CASE President Jigar Shah said in a statement.

The International Trade Commission, which is probing Chinese solar imports, said in December there is “a reasonable indication” that Chinese imports of crystalline silicon solar panels either injure or threaten to injure U.S. companies.

The decision, which represents the preliminary phase of the probe, paves the way for the Commerce Department, the second federal agency involved in the case, to move forward with its determination of whether China is subsidizing its solar industry and flooding the U.S. market with underpriced panels.

Commerce is expected to make a preliminary decision March 2 on whether to impose the duties. The department said Monday that it will retroactively impose duties on panels imported into the United States during the last 90 days if it ultimately decides the duties are warranted.

The solar manufacturers who are calling for the duties applauded the decision Monday.

“Robust and legal international competition, not predatory pricing that relies on massive and improper subsidies, will produce the best products and sustainable price declines over the long term,” said Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America, one of the companies that filed the trade petition. “Today, we are one step closer to these aims.”