US-China solar trade ruling: The industry responds

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The US government’s decision to impose anti-subsidy duties on Chinese PV manufacturers will make solar power more expensive for American consumers, the world’s biggest module supplier, Yingli Solar has said.

The Chinese manufacturer will be subject to a 26.89% duty under yesterday’s preliminary ruling by the US Department of Commerce.

Responding to the ruling, Robert Petrina, managing director of Yingli Green Energy Americas, the company's subsidiary in the US, said: “Today's decision will unfortunately make solar power more expensive for American consumers, and diminish opportunities for tens of thousands of US solar jobs that we have helped to create. We will continue to fight this petition and defend ourselves, alongside the majority of the US solar industry.

“We have fully cooperated throughout this investigation and have prepared ourselves for today's outcome, given the highly politicised nature of this case. We remain dedicated to the US solar market and will continue to support our customers and projects.”

Liansheng Miao, chairman and chief executive of Yingli Solar, added: “As we have witnessed globally now, tariffs are not the answer to driving affordable solar energy. We support international trade and fair competition and hope that those will prevail at the end of this dispute.”

Eric Luo, chief executive of Suntech, which at 35% got the highest duty, said: “The US ruling imposing a 35% duty on Wuxi Suntech is completely unfair as our company receives no subsidy from the Chinese government. Our ability to produce high-quality, low-cost PV modules stems from our highly efficient manufacturing process and from the scale of our supply chain.

“As a leader of a company which was shaken up by the sudden drop in prices of solar modules, I can share my American competitors' concerns over extreme price declines, but I also need to highlight the greater risks of industry instability – to which the current trade disputes are contributing.

“The real danger we're facing as an industry is not if a Chinese, European or American company goes bankrupt but if the entire industry value chain collapses. China can manufacture high-end panels at truly competitive prices, but it cannot replace inexpensive, high quality American silicon, or a talented American workforce which would be the first to suffer from a spike in prices of solar energy.”

Meanwhile, ReneSola responded by announcing it had finalised an order to supply 20,000 of its modules to a project in New Jersey. Crucially, ReneSola said the modules and the cells they contain were made by non-Chinese or Taiwanese manufacturers in its original equipment manufacturer network, thereby side-stepping the US duties.

Kevin Chen, president of ReneSola America, said: “This order exemplifies … our ability to adjust quickly to changing market dynamics through our OEM strategy. With the recent announcement of preliminary tariffs on modules imported from China to the United States, we are able to take an early initiative to keep our prices competitive by leveraging our global OEM network.”

'Time running out' for negotiated settlement

The US Solar Energy Industries Association, said the ruling threatened to “derail” the growth of solar in the US, without greatly benefiting SolarWorld, which brought the original petition. The body said the ruling underlined the need for a negotiated settlement, which it has already been working to broker.

SEIA chief executive, Rhone Resch, said: “These damaging tariffs will increase costs for US solar consumers and, in turn, slow the adoption of solar within the United States.  Ironically, the tariffs may provide little to no direct benefit to the sole petitioner SolarWorld, as we saw in the 2012 investigations. It’s time to end this needless litigation with a negotiated solution that addresses SolarWorld’s trade allegations while ensuring the continued growth of the US solar market.

“Over the past few months, SEIA has facilitated settlement discussions between Chinese solar manufacturers and SolarWorld. The goal of these discussions is to develop an industry recommendation to help jump-start government-to-government negotiations. Although we’ve succeeded in establishing direct communications between the parties—and are working with all segments of the industry to find a consensus solution—we’re quickly running out of time.

“It's time to get serious about resolving this ongoing dispute, before irreparable damage is done to the US solar industry. We’re strongly urging all parties to set aside their grievances; redouble efforts to find a solution that benefits all segments of the industry; and end this potentially costly and divisive conflict.”

PV Tech will report further reaction as it emerges.

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