SolarWorld chairman Frank Asbeck, the chief agitator in a string of trade cases against the Chinese PV industry, has been accused of “reckless” behaviour that could put thousands of US solar jobs at risk.
In an escalating war of words, Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, founded to oppose SolarWorld’s first US trade petition in 2012, said the company’s latest action was “irresponsible” and could “destroy” demand for solar in the US.
Shah’s comments followed an open letter sent by Asbeck to US president Barack Obama earlier this week, in which the SolarWorld chairman warned of “grave danger” to the US solar industry from “illegal trade practices” by Chinese PV manufacturers.
The letter referred to SolarWorld’s latest petition lodged with the US government at the start of the year in a bid to close a perceived “loophole” in sanctions already brought in against Chinese manufacturers.
Responding to Asbeck’s letter, Shah described the letter as “bizarre and frankly reckless”. “CASE agrees that the industry is under threat, but it’s entirely at the hands of Mr Asbeck and his Germany-based company,” Shah said.
Shah cited Obama’s State of the Union address last week, in which the president acknowledged the many jobs created by solar in the US, but pointed out that only a small proportion of these jobs are in manufacturing.
“President Obama championed American solar jobs ‘which can’t be outsourced’ because they are installation jobs which take place on America’s rooftops,” Shah said. “US solar jobs grew at six times the national employment rate in 2013 because global solar manufacturing, like the manufacture of so many of our consumer electronic goods, has made solar power affordable and attractive to American middle class homeowners. The solar industry contributed nearly 20,000 new jobs to the American workforce in 2013; of these only 100 were in manufacturing.”
Shah said that like SolarWorld’s last US trade action in 2012 “there is no credible case that tariffs will lead to increased US solar panel manufacturing or employment”.
“It’s critical to job growth in our country that we recognise where US solar jobs are coming from, and what drives their growth. SolarWorld’s reckless trade petition would destroy the demand for affordable solar which is creating tens of thousands of jobs per year. It is irresponsible and frankly contrary to American interests for a German company to suggest otherwise in a letter to the President of the United States.”
The US International Trade Commission is due to make an initial ruling on SolarWorld’s petition by 14 February.
In related news, lawyers representing Chinese manufacturers have told PV Tech that the SolarWorld action, if upheld, could unintentionally harm US-based PV manufacturers. The full interview can be read here.