Commerce extends review period for Auxin Solar petition despite industry lobbying

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A PV plant from SOLV Energy, one of more than 200 companies that this week urged Commerce to reject the petition: Image: Brian Doll, SOLV Energy.

The US Department of Commerce has given itself more time to review an anti-circumvention petition from Auxin Solar despite warnings from more than 200 companies that proposed tariffs could cause “catastrophic and unnecessary harm” to the country’s PV sector.

Commerce has extended the review period for the petition from California-based module manufacturer Auxin, which has requested investigations into whether crystalline silicon PV cells and modules assembled in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are circumventing US anti-dumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) orders on cells and modules from China.

The decision comes after more than 200 solar companies urged Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to reject the petition, which would impose duties that they say would cause the US to lose nearly 14GW of solar deployment and make it “nearly impossible” to meet President Biden’s climate goals.

“The petitioner seeks to game the system by imposing cost-prohibitive duties on its competitors, including its fellow domestic module manufacturers who depend on imported cells from Southeast Asia,” the companies said in a letter sent to Raimondo earlier this week.

The duties, ranging from 50% to 250%, would stall projects and lead to the loss of 45,000 American jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which said the petition “is based on the false claim that production in the four countries is a ‘minor or insignificant’ process. The reality is that significant work is done in those countries.”

Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are the source of more than 80% of solar imports into the US.

Commerce’s move to extend the review period comes just four months after it rejected another request for investigations into alleged AD/CVD circumvention in Southeast Asia, citing the anonymity of the group behind the petition.

However, that petition – filed in August 2021 – slowed solar deployment in the US as some foreign PV equipment suppliers withheld shipments until business certainty was established, the companies said in their letter to Raimondo. “Many solar projects were delayed, including projects under construction, and many jobs were lost,” they said.

George Hershman, CEO of solar developer and O&M provider SOLV Energy, said Commerce’s decision to extend the review period for the petition “will come at a high cost for the solar industry”, adding: “Every day the threat of tariffs looms, tens of thousands of jobs and countless projects hang in the balance.”

In its filing, Auxin alleges that cell and module assemblers in Southeast Asia use affiliated Chinese input suppliers and a fully integrated Chinese supply chain to circumvent the AD/CVD orders. In a press release published when the petition was announced, Auxin CEO Mamun Rashid said the operations described in its filing represent “textbook circumvention”.

Research published today by SEIA and analyst firm Wood Mackenzie revealed that while solar deployment in the US reached a record high in 2021, utility-scale additions are set to fall this year because of supply chain uncertainty and volatile commodity prices. Their US Solar Market Insight report warned of the significant increase in module prices if additional tariffs are eventually introduced.

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