International Trade Commission finds injury in solar industry dispute

Suniva Solar World solar cell manufacturing and trade

Ignoring free market principles will cost US solar jobs

The commission announced Friday that solar cells and panels were "being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or threat of serious injury, to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported article in the United States".

The bankrupt Georgia-based solar company Suniva joined forces with Oregon-based SolarWorld to petition the U.S. International Trade Commission for relief earlier this year, saying that the U.S. solar industry "simply can not survive" at a time when foreign imports of solar cells "have unexpectedly exploded and prices have collapsed".

"Tesla is now building the largest solar cell and module plant in the USA, and we are committed to expanding our domestic manufacturing with or without any tariff or price guarantees, a Tesla spokewoman said". U.S.jobs manufacturing solar cells represent less than 1% of all USA solar industry jobs, far less than the 35,000 other US solar industry manufacturing jobs.

Georgia-based Suniva Inc. and Oregon-based SolarWorld Americas brought the case, saying a flood of imports have pushed them to the brink of extinction.

The tariff petition comes as module prices fell dramatically, stoking demand in the U.S.by almost 350%, according to a post-hearing brief from SolarWorld.

The ITC will hold a hearing on October 3 to discuss potential remedies, including imposing tariffs on other countries, with plans to send a proposal to Trump by November 13, according to UtilityDive.

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"If you were to double the price of a solar module, it would have massive negative impacts for 99% of the solar supply chain", said Amy Grace, head of North American research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research firm, before the decision.

President Donald Trump will make a final decision on relief. They cited a study showing that a global tariff could cause solar installations to drop by more than 50 percent in two years, a crushing blow as states push for renewable energy that does not contribute to climate change. Such a measure would dramatically increase the cost of solar panels in the US, making the electricity source less competitive with fossil fuels like natural gas and coal.

Suniva and SolarWorld claim their tariff petition will actually result in an increase in solar industry jobs in the United State. The company declared bankruptcy this spring after laying off 190 employees and closing production sites in Georgia and MI.

SolarWorld employs about 300 people in OR, down from 1,300 at the peak, Mr Brightbill said.

The U.S. solar industry has boomed in the last decade, spurred on by Obama administration policies and ever lower panel prices. A recent Solar Foundation jobs census found that, in 2016, there were 260,077 solar jobs, including 38,121 jobs in manufacturing.

Hoper told reporters she was optimistic that Trump would not impose tariffs on solar imports. Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, called it an "ill-conceived case" driven by creditors wanting to recover some of their investments "in poorly run companies".

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