Inside the White House meeting with solar manufacturers aiming to formulate PV production strategy

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The meeting was held to discuss how the White House could help kickstart the US solar manufacturing sector following the enacting of the Defense Production Act. Image: Unsplash

Earlier this week (14 June), White House officials and solar manufacturers sat down with one another to discuss how the Biden Administration could kickstart PV manufacturing via its recently enacted Defense Production Act (DPA).  

The meeting, initially reported by Bloomberg and which was not public, lasted around an hour, was hosted by deputy national climate advisor Ali Zaidi and was attended by more than 20 representatives, according to the news service. PV Tech understands that industry trade bodies were also present.  

Last week, President Biden authorised the US Department of Energy (DOE) to use the DPA – Cold War-era legislation designed to incentivise the domestic manufacture of strategically important goods – to accelerate the production of five clean energy technologies, including PV modules and module components.

At the time, the White House said it would convene “relevant industry” and other stakeholders to “maximise the impact” of tools available under the DPA.

The meeting was billed as just the beginning of efforts to establish a clear solar manufacturing strategy but one person in attendance told PV Tech that there was not even the skeleton of a plan, with few details fleshed out during the call.

“There are no plans, there is no clear path but a political announcement,” said the source. “As an industry player, we need to push and pull to make it happen. It is possible, and we have the government’s attention now.”

A second source PV Tech spoke to who was in attendance said there were voices on both sides of the highly contentious investigation into alleged circumvention of antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD)  – those who supported Auxin Solar’s petition and those vehemently against it who welcomed Biden’s two-year exemption from certain trade tariffs on solar modules manufactured in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“There’s no way for anyone to say the White House didn’t make itself open to hearing a variety of viewpoints,” said the source.

“The call itself was dominated by vocal voices who support Auxin’s circumvention petition, including Auxin,” they said, adding that other stakeholders in the domestic manufacturing space “joined to show support for the administration’s important efforts with their solar proclamation”.  

Nonetheless, it appears as though little of substance has come out of the meeting in terms of a clear solar manufacturing strategy.

Canadian solar manufacturer Heliene, which has production facilities in the US, was in attendance. Its CEO Martin Pochtaruk told PV Tech the company “finds the US federal administration decision to support domestic solar PV manufacturing encouraging” but that the industry needed to “promptly collaborate to transform that willingness into workable plans and programmes that transform such clear intention into manufacturing capital expenditure”.

“We have an opportunity to make a difference and accelerate the regionalisation of the solar industry in North America, let’s tackle it and run with it,” added Pochtaruk.  

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