Andrew Cuomo visited the site of the gigafactory in Buffalo in August 2015. Source: ©Gov Andrew Cuomo.

Andrew Cuomo visited the site of the gigafactory in Buffalo in August 2015. Source: ©Gov Andrew Cuomo.

The office of New York governor Andrew Cuomo has spoken out against the Suniva trade case, despite his state being home to the largest crystalline silicon cell and module manufacturing plant in the US.

The former SolarCity, now merged with Tesla renamed the facility Gigafactory 2, which is located at Riverbend, Buffalo, NY and being ramped more than 1GW of modules by JV partner Panasonic.

Suniva and SolarWorld Americas are petitioning under the US Section 201 laws, to apply measures on imports of any solar cells and modules into the country, regardless of where they came from. They are looking for a module floor price of US$0.78 per Watt on modules containing foreign cells and other measures including the establishment of a fund to support domestic manufacturers.

On Friday this week, the 22 September, the four US International Trade Commissioners will vote on whether imports are the major cause of injury to US manufacturers. In the event of a tie, the case will proceed from the injury phase, to the remedy phase, where it's decided what action, if any should be recommended. The final decision on those recommendations rest with the White House.

Despite New York arguably being the largest new source of solar manufacturing jobs, a filing with the ITC highlighted the governor’s concerns with the solar value chain as a whole.

“The disruptions that could be caused by the Petitioners’ requested relief would likely extend to sectors of the clean energy economy well beyond solar. Solar energy is increasingly being paired with other distributed energy technology, including batteries, fuel cells and energy efficiency. Together, these solutions can offer greater customer and system-wide cost and energy savings. Further, these distributed “nodes” represent key building blocks of the grid of the future that is more resilient and flexible. A grant of Petitioners’ requested relief would therefore mean a slower, more fitful transition to a decentralized electricity grid, one in which smart and advanced metering technologies make the grid more resilient to extreme weather events and even cyberattacks. Recently, widespread power outages caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have underscored the need to build the grid of the future, not to keep rebuilding the grid of the past.”

The letter claims that by 2021 the 8000 solar jobs in the state today could grow to 12,000 but with the imposition of tariffs, that growth would reverse to just 4000 jobs.

Picking sides

A number of significant groups have stood up to pick sides in recent weeks. The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is the most recent group to back the petitioners.

“As a domestic labor-business partnership, our members and advocates are keenly aware of the impact of exceedingly high levels of imports on domestic production and jobs. In the specific case of solar cells and panels, it would be devastating to lose a productive domestic manufacturing capacity just as solar installations are scaling up in the United States,” the letter from the AAM reads. “The growing US solar installation market would be well served by vibrant domestic competition rather than an overreliance on imports from China.”

Conservative lobbying giant the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), recently spoke out against the petition questioning its likely effectiveness based on past experience.

“The last time the United States imposed import restrictions under its safeguard power was in 2002, when then-President George W. Bush acquiesced to the domestic steel industry’s demands for stiffer tariffs on imported steel. The tariffs sparked a threat of retaliation by the European Union, caused up to 200,000 domestic job losses and eventually were withdrawn after a successful challenge at the WTO,” said ALEC and a group of other conservative think tanks.

Tags: usa, us, section 201, suniva, solarworld americas, trade dispute, new york, c-si manufacturing