Science

United States tariffs on solar panels could crush industry

United States tariffs on solar panels could crush industryā€¯

According to Bloomberg, citing a report from GTM Research, a request to put tariffs on solar panels could eliminate two-thirds of the solar systems forecast to be installed in the next five years. When a cell import tariff is added to the calculation only 26 state markets would reach solar grid parity, GTM notes.

Research firms are typically not known for hyperbole, but GTM said that after crunching the numbers, its analysts concluded Suniva's tariff would result in "unprecedented demand destruction" for the US solar industry.

The new GTM Research analysis points out that the majority of utility-scale solar PV procurement now relies on solar being cost competitive with natural gas alternatives, and now three-quarters of the utility-scale solar PV pipeline was procured outside of renewable portfolio standards.

While utility-scale installations would be hardest hit, residential projects would fare somewhat better. It was joined in the petition by another domestic manufacturer, the USA division of Germany's SolarWorld.

It should also be noted that one of the parties to this complaint, SolarWorld, also filed trade complaints of its own in 2011 that set off a firestorm of criticism and condemnation from well-known industry observers who predicted dire consequences for the industry - consequences that clearly did not materialize, given the industry's continued explosive growth during that period. It's asking for duties of 40 cents a watt for solar cells, which now sell for 25 cents to 33 cents a watt. These prices have not been in place since 2012, according to Reuters.

If Suniva's suggested remedy of a $0.78/Wdc minimum crystalline silicon PV module price is accepted, USA solar demand would be reduced by 50% cumulatively over the next five years.

The US ITC will make its decision in September this year, in regard to whether imports are causing harm to domestic producers.

PV Magazine reports that Trump would then have the final say as to what will happen going forward. In the end, the results may be vastly different than what Suniva is seeking.

Furthermore, the value proposition of solar in many states where PV has become cheaper than natural gas power, while also providing a good hedge against the volatility of wholesale pricing, would be effectively erased under both scenarios, said Honeyman. "I don't want to just hope the wind blows to light up your homes and your factories, as the birds fall to the ground." .

"SolarWorld - as the largest United States crystalline silicon solar manufacturer, with more than 40 years of USA manufacturing experience - will assess the case brought by Suniva, but prefers that any action to be taken against unfair trade shall consider all parts of the U.S. solar value chain", Stein said.

The Solar Energy Industries Trade Association, the US solar trade group, is opposed to Suniva's petition.



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