Solar installers from Baker Electric place solar panels on the roof of a residential home in Scripps Ranch, San Diego, California, U.S. October 14, 2016. Picture taken October 14, 2016.

Will a trade fight with Asia sabotage the U.S. solar industry? That may be up to Trump
Trump’s most useful ally in his push to restore the dominance of coal, oil and gas in America could ultimately turn out to be a pair of bankrupt solar firms seeking help from the federal government getting back on their feet.

In an unorthodox trade case roiling the solar industry worldwide, the duo of distressed panel makers is aiming to empower Trump with the authority to slap punishing tariffs on foreign competitors — mostly in China and other Asian countries — whose cheap panels have fueled the massive growth in U.S. solar installations.

The fallout from the case that was heard Tuesday by the U.S. International Trade Commission threatens to destabilize the massive network of installers and other nonmanufacturing businesses that make up the bulk of the American solar industry. Nearly 90% of the panels it uses are produced abroad.


Solar trade case weighs whether protection will save or sink industry
Two solar manufacturers are begging the federal government for help, arguing that without protection from a flood of cheap imports, the United States risks losing its own domestic solar industry. But as they made their arguments before a commission on Tuesday, they faced an opponent: much of the rest of their industry.

In a hushed, wood-paneled hearing room in the heart of Washington, companies Suniva and SolarWorld urged the U.S. International Trade Commission to impose steep tariffs on imports of solar cells and modules, which are assembled into panels and used to harvest solar energy, under a rarely used section of U.S. trade law known as Section 201.

“Quite simply, we need the commission’s help to save solar manufacturing in the United States,” Jürgen Stein, chief executive of SolarWorld Americas, said in testimony before the commission. “Relief under Section 201 is our last hope.”


Tariffs are surefire way to pull plug on U.S. solar industry
Bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Suniva Inc. this week will try to close the proverbial barn door after all the horses have gone.

The Georgia-based company wants the U.S. International Trade Commission to impose a 40 cent per watt tariff on Chinese solar cells and a 78 cent-per-watt tariff on solar complete panels. Suniva’s CEO says price-fixing is the only way to save the U.S. solar panel industry.

Raising prices also happens to be the best way to cripple the U.S. solar power industry as a whole.


Fractured U.S. solar sector argues at tariff hearing.
A bitterly divided U.S. solar power industry descended on Washington on Tuesday to testify before a government panel that has been asked to impose steep tariffs on imported solar panels.

The trade case, brought by panel maker Suniva, has created a rift between the sector’s struggling U.S. manufacturers and the much bigger domestic industry that installs and develops solar projects.

Suniva filed a petition seeking the tariffs with the International Trade Commission in April, nine days after the company sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Suniva, which has been majority owned by Hong Kong-based Shunfeng International Clean Energy since 2015, makes panels in Georgia and Michigan.

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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