Nearly all US solar companies expecting ‘severe or devastating impact’ of anti-circumvention investigation

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The Commerce Department’s decision to initiate the AD/CVD investigation has been widely criticised by US solar developers. Image: Unsplash

More than 90% of respondents to a Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) survey said that the US Department of Commerce’s (DOC) decision to investigate alleged circumvention of antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD) is having a “severe or devastating impact” on their business.

The survey into AD/CVD circumvention by solar manufacturers in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – which sought the feedback of some 200 US companies – also revealed that 75% of them have experienced modules cancellations or delays as a result of the DOC’s decision.

“All market segments — residential, commercial, community solar and utility-scale solar — overwhelmingly reported devastating or severe impacts from the investigation,” said SEIA.

On 25 March, a DOC team recommended the department investigate whether imports of solar cells and/or modules originating from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are circumventing tariffs on Chinese products.

The DOC will send questionnaires to companies in those countries regarding their cell and module shipments to the US and the origin of inputs for those products.

The investigation could last up to a year and if the DOC rules in favour of the petition, tariffs of up to 250% could be applied to solar cells and/or modules originating from the countries in question and applied retroactively from any date from 4 November 2021 onwards.

The decision has been widely criticised by US solar developers and SEIA, citing a report from research firm Wood Mackenzie, said the petition could eliminate 16GW of module supply from the US, equivalent to two-thirds of all modules installed last year.

“This investigation is based on a meritless trade case that is hammering the solar industry in real-time and diminishing our efforts as a country to tackle climate change,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO. 

“We urge the administration to expedite this investigation and end this unnecessary roadblock to our clean energy future.”

SEIA said that to prove circumvention under US law, the “work to create a product in a particular country must be minor and insignificant” but that “the countries listed in the petition have invested billions of dollars to establish a manufacturing base.”

“Fabricating solar cells and panels is a major and significant operation that will take years to establish in the US,” it added.

The trade body said the investigation comes as the industry is “fighting for legislation that will substantially increase solar deployment”, referencing US President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) Act. More than 60 clean energy organisation have called for more progress on the Act, which is currently being stymied by opposition from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.

On the jobs front, two-thirds of the companies surveyed reported that half of their workforce was at risk and one-third of companies said their entire workforce was at risk. SEIA estimates that as a result of the petition, the solar industry will lose 70,000 out of its 231,000 jobs.

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