Section 201 case jeopardises rebuilding of Puerto Rico’s grid, warns senator

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on email
Work to repair power lines in Broward County, Puerto Rico. Credit: FEMA/Christopher Ragazzo.

Remedies that drive up the cost of deploying solar power in the US would jeopardise the ability of Puerto Rico to rebuild its power infrastructure, Senator-at-large Eduardo Bhatia has warned.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) will vote on 31 October to decide what action to recommend to President Trump. The petitioners in the case, Suniva and SolarWorld Americas, have requested a tariff on all imported solar cells and modules and either a quota or minimum price floor. Tariff rates of US$0.25/W on cells and US$0.32/W modules have been suggested.

Puerto Rico’s already weak grid suffered huge hurricane damage with the US solar and storage industry rallying round to source donated expertise and equipment.

“Hurricane Maria destroyed my homeland, leaving us virtually 100% without power,” wrote in a letter to the ITC. “The entire grid was destroyed. From this devastation, Puerto Rico has an opportunity to rebuild with clean energy resources like solar. Our island should be embracing this abundant, low-cost energy source. Embracing solar would also create good quality jobs for people and communities that desperately need them.

“…I respectfully request that you carefully consider the negative impacts the proposed trade remedies would have on the entire American solar industry and Puerto Rico's efforts to rebuild with clean energy first after hurricanes destroyed our already unstable electricity grid,” the Senator asked.

“I am concerned that the requested trade protection would sharply increase the price of solar panels, which would lead to a negative impact across the entire solar industry and could make it too expensive to rebuild Puerto Rico with this technology. The increased costs could jeopardize the potential for millions of dollars in investment in communities across Puerto Rico,” he added.

According to GTM Research, around 2GW of modules have been secured for deployment after any remedies come into effect in January 2018. The company, a critic of the case, estimates that a tariff of US$0.40/W on modules would almost halve utility-scale deployment in the US during the four years that it would be enforced.

Modules available without the tariffs, be they domestic, stockpiled or thin-film are likely to find their way into the projects with the highest margins for owners and investors

Only Hawaii had higher power costs than Puerto Rico prior to the hurricane. US authorities stated on 14 October that they were aiming to restore power to 25% of the island by the end of the month.

Tesla tweeted today that a solar-plus-storage project it is executing for Hospital del Niño in Puerto Rico is close to going online, while a US contractor which has only been in existence for two years and has only two employees, Whitefish Energy, has been awarded a US$300 million contract by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to execute infrastructure restoration work on the island territory. 

Read Next

June 21, 2021
Canada has requested a dispute settlement panel regarding US safeguard tariffs on solar products from Canada after failing to resolve the issue through consultations
PV Tech Premium
June 21, 2021
The cost of insuring operational solar farms has skyrocketed over the course of the year, triggered by carriers rethinking their approaches to natural catastrophes and other extreme weather events. This has placed additional importance on mitigation strategies. Kevin Christy, COO for North America at Lightsource bp, details how the solar developer has adapted its strategy in the field.
June 15, 2021
The confidence of renewable energy investors and developers stands at an “all-time high”, a new report by the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) claims, however investment must surge in the coming years if the US is to meet decarbonisation goals.
April 14, 2021
Meyer Burger is on track to start shipments of its first heterojunction (HJ) solar modules made in Germany to distributors in July.
March 25, 2021
Thin-film laser systems equipment supplier LPKF Laser & Electronics suffered from delays in receiving new expected orders from two long-stand customers last year.
March 23, 2021
Lightsource bp has been selected to build, own and operate seven solar arrays in Pennsylvania that will provide nearly half of the state government’s electricity.

Subscribe to Newsletter

Upcoming Events

Solar Media Events
July 6, 2021
Solar Media Events
August 24, 2021
Solar Media Events, Upcoming Webinars
October 6, 2021