China only exported 46MW of solar modules to the US between January and September 2018, according to new data from the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products (CCCME).
Manufacturers in China shifted swathes of production to Southeast Asia in the wake of the anti-dumping (AD) and anti-subsidy (AS) duties applied in 2012 and 2015. The Section 201 duties applied by the US to effectively all countries with any PV manufacturing heritage, tightened the screw further.
The global price drop, resulting from the drop in demand in China, softened the impact of the Section 201 tariffs on many countries. The combination of both Section 201, AD and AS duties appears to have had a sharp impact on China-origin modules entering the US.
In 2016, 2868MW were imported dropping to 825MW in 2017. The 2018 figure up to and including September is 46MW.
Analysis released this month by Wood Mackenzie predicts 2018 solar installs of 11.1GW. Coupled with the CCCME data and the fact that US manufacturing makes up a fraction of that total, the US is clearly importing multiple GWs from countries other than China. By April, the year to date imports of “cells assembled into modules” for 2018 totalled US$918 million with Korea, Malaysia and Mexico the top sources.
This data illustrates the efficiency with which Chinese firms have been able to adjust their manufacturing footprints and the apparent failure of the Section 201 tariffs to halt deployment.
Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the speed of the pivot by Chinese manufacturers was surprising.
“Nonetheless, like most trade duties, they are of enormous benefit to the job prospects of trade lawyers, inconvenience some industry players, and have little positive impact in the long term on those who are intended to benefit,” she added.
That view is shared by the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) which lobbied against both sets of trade measures.
“As we’ve said all along, this is a unique situation where virtually no one benefits and almost everyone loses," said Alex Hobson, director of external relations at SEIA. "The US does not have the infrastructure in place to supplant imports. Under these tariffs, US installers are just forced to pay higher prices, which as we saw in the newly-released Solar Market Insight report decreases demand and stymies the solar industry’s progress.”
Additional reporting by Carrie Xiao