Some view the U.S. Department of Commerce’s move last week to tighten the imports of Chinese solar panels through tariffs and anti-dumping duties as a step in the right direction, while others say it will hurt jobs in America.
According to Matthew Stepp, senior policy analyst for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, the move by Commerce is a “good first step” in creating a free and fair solar panel market in the U.S., but he is concerned that a loophole left in Commerce’s decision could dilute its effectiveness.
Stepp was interviewed about the solar panel issue Oct. 15 on Platts Energy Week, an all-energy news and talk television program.
Commerce set preliminary solar panel product tariffs and duties last spring, and took final action on Oct. 10.
“…Let’s be clear, the U.S. and China are already in a clean energy trade war…China decided to be in a trade war with the U.S. when it wanted to win the clean energy race by just super-subsidizing their solar products instead of making better products at a cheaper price,” Stepp said. “It’s taken the United States a longer time to actually get around to fighting back…the tariffs are a good first step.”
Commerce set final countervailing tariffs of 14.78 percent to 15.97 percent and anti-dumping duties of 18.32 percent to 249.96 percent on Chinese polysilicon solar panels. The tariffs were put in place to offset what the U.S. says are China’s illegal subsidies for its solar panel makers; the duties are a bid to thwart alleged “dumping” of the products in the U.S. by Chinese manufacturers at below-market prices.
But Commerce’s action did not extend to solar cells manufactured in other countries that are used to make Chinese solar modules, which would allow Chinese solar panel companies to avoid the tariffs and duties.
Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, told Platt’s Energy Week his group is “not happy” about the tariffs on solar panel products. Shah said U.S. workers in the solar industry “depend on low-cost solar panels to do their job.”
“Utility-scale projects compete with natural gas,” he said. “So today, with lower natural gas prices, solar power has had to come in at 30-40 percent lower prices today than it did four years ago. And the reason we’re able to do that is because solar panel prices have been able to come down so markedly in the last three years.”
Shah said the tariffs could make it more difficult to sell solar panel-based systems, but cited the solar module loophole in Commerce’s decision as a saving grace.
“The good news out of the Department of Commerce case is that they didn’t extend the scope of the case from solar cells to solar modules,” he said. “This allows the use of Taiwanese cells, Indian cells, Malaysian cells, Filipino cells, and so we now have more of a free market to keep the prices down in the United States.”
Do you think the solar tariffs and anti-dumping duties on China are a good or bad idea for the U.S. Why?
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