New player in solar trade fight: Sean Hannity

Axios

10/20/17

As the White House tariff decision looms, Fox News personality and radio host Sean Hannity has come out against proposals for new penalties on imported solar panel equipment.

Why it matters: Hannity is friends with President Trump, and has a big platform.

The White House will make the final decision on potential new import restrictions at some point after next month's recommendations from the U.S. International Trade Commission, which concluded in September that low-cost imports from Asia and elsewhere are harming U.S. manufacturers.

Hannity cut a radio ad that ran in South Carolina over the past two weeks that calls the tariff petition by two financially distressed panel-makers an attempt to "manipulate" trade laws, and a "bailout" that would increase prices by "government mandate."

  • "Now that the Obama gravy train has run dry, well now they want President Trump to also stick you with the bill for their bankrupt businesses," Hannity says in the spot. "Taxpayers should not have to bail out one foreign-owned company only for their foreign financiers to get another payout."

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Sean Hannity weighs in on the Section 201 case

PV Magazine

10/18/17

It’s a clear sign that the solar has become relevant across all sections of American society when pundits on Fox News, who have previously described Climate Change as “phony science”, are taking positions on solar trade cases.

Fox News host Sean Hannity has issued an audio statement to make the argument that President Trump should reject proposals for trade action by Suniva and SolarWorld, calling any proposed remedies a “bailout” for failed, foreign-owned manufacturers. This clip ran for several weeks in South Carolina, a nascent solar market, in advance of a visit by President Trump.

The 78-second clip, available on YouTube, shows Hannity’s misunderstanding of and/or disregard for basic facts regarding the solar industry, relying instead on the trademark Fox News trope of blaming former President Obama. This includes the bizarre claim that under Obama SolarWorld and Suniva “only survived because they received taxpayer money”, and that the “Obama gravy train has run dry”.

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Section 201 tariff could halve utility-scale deployment in US: GTM

PV Tech

10/17/17

A US$0.40/W tariff resulting from the Section 201 case would halve utility-scale deployment in the US between 2018-2022, according to GTM Research.

The company also noted however, that the utility-scale sector could ride-out the impacts of a US$0.10/W tariff with a drop of 9% expected.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) will vote on recommended remedies, including potential tariffs on 31 October before President Trump makes his final determination in January next year.

GTM’s report attempts to assess the impact on the industry in the event of tariffs.

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GTM Research Analyzes Impact Of Solar Tariff In 12 Charts

Clean Technica

10/17/17

GTM Research has published a new report this week investigating the potential impact of introducing various levels of tariffs on the solar industry as a result of the Section 201 trade case currently in front of the US International Trade Commission.

I’ve been covering the Suniva and SolarWorld Section 201 trade case since the beginning (you can search through the past stories using the Suniva tag here) which was brought before the US International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking tariffs on crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells and a floor price on CSPV modules.

Unsurprisingly, the US solar industry reacted with near-unanimous disappointment with the ITC’s decision, but have nevertheless promised to continue fighting in an effort to ensure that the remedy phase yields the best-possible outcome for the industry as a whole

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Viewpoint: Don’t let trade tariffs halt the growing U.S. solar industry

Denver Business Journal

10/13/17

There are few industries more interwoven into American life than the electric power industry. In today's modern economy, nearly every aspect of our lives depends on electricity, whether it's powering cloud computing systems linking our businesses to offices around the world, or the center pivot irrigation systems our farmers rely on to put food on our tables.

Electric energy is a necessity.

As demand for electricity has increased, so too has our desire for electricity generated from cheap, clean and reliable sources, such as solar. Solar has recently become one of the cheapest power sources, keeping everyone's electricity bills low, including those who don't have solar. This low-cost, clean power puts more money in consumers' pockets, and improves our air quality.

Unfortunately, access to affordable solar is threatened, due to a proposal to levy massive tariffs on certain solar modules, the primary component in a finished solar panel. In September, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) found that imported solar modules are causing harm to domestic solar manufacturers. This decision stems from a petition brought to the ITC by a bankrupt U.S. solar manufacturer with a Chinese majority owner. The petition was later joined by another U.S. manufacturer (owned by a German company). 

Since the ITC determined that harm has been caused, they have until Nov. 13th to recommend a remedy to the president. The remedies proposed by the petitioners are extreme: Effectively doubling the price of solar by applying a tariff on all imported solar modules. Fear of these tariffs alone has led to a 20 percent price increase for solar panels in recent months and forced developers to procure and warehouse panels to hedge against future price increases. These current and proposed increases in solar prices hurt everyone with an electric bill - higher priced power and less clean energy.

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U.S. Solar Manufacturers and Foreign Parties Offer Trade Remedies to ITC

Lexology

10/10/17

As we discussed in a previous post, the International Trade Commission (ITC) found that U.S. producers are being seriously injured or are threatened with serious injury by imports of silicon photovoltaic cells and modules. As the case now advances to the remedy phase, companies, countries and trade organizations on all sides of the matter weighed in with their official recommendations for a suggested remedy.

Petitioner, Suniva, lowered the tariff suggestion from its original filing from $0.40 to a minimum of $0.24 per watt for standard crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells, with similar proposals from California-based manufacturer Auxin Solar and Oregon’s SolarWorld Americas.

San Antonio-based Mission Solar stopped short of recommending a tariff, instead suggesting an “economic incentive development program” with the aim of increasing U.S. solar cell manufacturing capacity. California’s SunPower noted that any measure restricting trade would not ultimately benefit U.S. manufacturers. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) also contends that trade-restrictive measures would not achieve the ultimate goal of bolstering U.S. manufacturers and instead endorse direct aid in the form of technical and/or trade-adjustment assistance.

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It would be a 'travesty': Colorado senators agree (and disagree) on energy policy

Denver Business Journal

10/10/17

Colorado’s two U.S. Senators on Tuesday said they’ve both signed a letter opposing the imposition of tariffs on imported solar power panels.

But they disagreed on the Trump administration’s move Tuesday to roll back the Clean Power Plan, one of President Barack Obama’s signature pieces of legislation on the environment.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, on Tuesday spoke to a group of local executives at the Colorado Energy and Manufacturing Forum, organized by the Consumer Energy Alliance(CEA) and Colorado Business Roundtable’s (COBRT) and held at the History Colorado Museum near downtown.

“Today in Washington they’re dismantling the Clean Power Plan,” Bennet said, referring to the plan that sought to cut carbon emissions from the nation’s power sector.

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Donald Trump now has the excuse he needs to open the floodgates of protectionism

Washington Post

10/9/17

President Trump has just been handed two opportunities to impose new trade barriers. By Jan. 12, 2018, he must decide whether to impose “safeguard” tariffs or quotas on $8.5 billion in imports of solar panels. By Feb. 3, he will make the same call regarding $1.8 billion in imports of washing machines.

This is a pivotal moment for U.S. trade relationships. If Trump imposes new tariffs, there could be a tsunami of demands for protection against imports of hundreds of other products. Trade barriers on solar panels and washers also would probably lead to costs for the U.S. economy, a slowing of efforts at climate mitigation, and retaliation by trading partners.

There are already tariffs on solar panels and washing machines

The key feature shared by the solar panel and washer cases is that the United States already imposes special tariffs on these products, but limits these tariffs to only a couple of foreign source countries. In solar, the United States imposed anti-dumping and countervailing duties on imports from China beginning in 2011 and Taiwan in 2014. The problem for the struggling U.S. industry is that there was a surge of new solar imports from Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Solar Executives Lobby White House, Federal Officials to Avoid Tariffs

Greentech Media

10/5/17

Executives from eight solar manufacturing companies gathered in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to convince federal officials that tariffs would wipe out tens of thousands of industry jobs. With any luck, they say, the message will be heard by a president who holds the future of U.S. solar in his hands.

The day of lobbying was organized by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in response to an evolving trade case launched by Suniva and SolarWorld. U.S. trade commissioners ruled last month that imported solar equipment has caused "serious injury" to domestic manufacturers, validating the companies’ claims that cheap imports from Asia have made it impossible for them to compete. 

The troubled manufacturers filed their petition under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, which is an obscure part of U.S. trade law that could allow the president to implement tariffs, minimum prices or quotas on solar products from anywhere in the world. 

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Solar tariff foes take case to White House

Axios

10/5/17

Solar industry officials took their case against steep new import penalties on solar panel equipment to the White House yesterday.

Why it matters: The trip, organized via the Solar Energy Industries Association, signals how opponents of new tariffs are pushing to make headway with Trump aides even as the U.S. International Trade Commission is still weighing its upcoming recommendations to the White House.

What happened: SEIA didn't specify exactly who they met with, though Politico reported yesterday that SEIA president Abigail Ross Hopper told reporters ahead of the trip that it would include White House aides, as well as staff from DOE, the U.S. Trade Representative's office, and other agencies.

On the industry side, officials from SunPower, DuPont, RBI Solar and a few other companies attended. They're fighting the bid by two financially distressed panel makers — Suniva and SolarWorld — for major new tariffs and other restrictions.

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Tariffs and protectionism are not the way to make America great again

The Hill

10/4/17

Last month the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of a petition filed earlier this year under Section 201 of the Trade Act by solar panel manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld. The filing alleged that the two bankrupt companies experienced serious injury due to overseas competition. Section 201 is a rarely used remedy for domestic industries seriously injured by or threatened with serious injury from increased imports. An ITC recommendation on this case is expected by November 3 and is likely to include tariffs which, if the president agrees, could cost 88,000 American jobs and inhibit growth in America’s solar industry.

Section 201 is being used to unfairly protect a domestic industry again. In May, Whirlpool filed a petition alleging that Korean companies LG and Samsung have harmed it in the large residential washer (LRW) market. According to the suit, LG and Samsung are selling large residential washers (LRWs) in the United States at below the production cost. An ITC ruling is expected on October 5, and if the trend holds, the ITC will recommend the president impose tariffs. As with the case involving solar panels, if the president accepts the recommendations American families will bear the costs of the U.S. giving into protectionist impulses in the form of higher prices, lost consumer choice and possibly, jobs.

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Section 201: Clear and present danger

PV Magazine

10/4/17

At the Solar Power International trade show, held in September in Las Vegas, the Section 201 petition was on everyone’s lips. A session at 8:00 a.m. on the first morning of the show featured solar industry leaders presenting an impassioned case for everyone in the industry to get involved.

However, despite these pleas, no one knows for sure what is going to happen. At the time of writing this article, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) had not yet found injury, however it did not look good for opponents of the trade case. Beyond the injury finding there are still multiple layers of uncertainty, given that it is still unknown what trade remedies the ITC will recommend, or what the Trump Administration will finally choose to do.

If a significant trade action is taken, there are reasons to conclude that, unlike previous trade cases, it will likely have noticeable impacts on the U.S. market, which could last for a number of years. But this is not a matter of waiting for the effects, as it has not taken a finding of injury for changes in the market to become visible.

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ITC seeks more details as solar sector battles over remedies in trade case hearing

Utility Dive

10/4/17

Solar interests squared off once again Tuesday in another marathon hearing at the U.S. International Trade Commission. The hearing follows a highly contested decision from the agency that found cheap imported solar modules caused severe harm to a pair of financially-struggling U.S. solar manufacturers.

The ITC took testimony from more than 50 stakeholders — a range of U.S. politicians, embassy representatives, solar installers and industry analysts — over potential remedies designed to revive the struggling domestic manufacturing industry. The investigation comes as part of a rare Section 201 investigation under the Trade Act of 1974.

Georgia-based Suniva and Oregon-based SolarWorld, the two petitioners, argue their proposed remedies will stabilize prices, ramp up production and ensure market share for domestic manufacturers. Opponents, however, worry any remedy could cost the domestic solar industry up to 80,000 jobs by 2020. Solar accounted for nearly 40% of new U.S. generating capacity in 2016.

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Will The U.S. Solar Industry Survive Import Tariffs? Trump Holds The Cards

Forbes

10/3/17

When it comes to protecting U.S. businesses from what he perceives to be unfair trade practices, President Trump has said that he would not hesitate to impose tariffs on goods that are imported here. He will soon have such a decision to make with respect to Chinese-made solar panels crossing our borders.

The investigation into cheap imports comes at the behest of two bankrupt solar panel makers: SolarWorld Americas and Suniva, which is Georgia-based company that is owned, interestingly, by a Chinese conglomerate called Shunfeng International. The two are now asking for a minimum import price of 74 cents per watt for solar modules, nearly doubling the current import prices.

However, such a tactic would also mean that U.S. produced solar panels would get taxed as they seek foreign markets. As a result, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) that represent solar makers here has come out against it, saying it would “cripple” one of the “brightest spots” on the energy horizon and damage a $29 billion segment of the economy.

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Divided U.S. solar sector spars over trade relief at hearing

Reuters

10/3/17

U.S. solar manufacturers on Tuesday asked federal trade officials to impose tariffs on cheap foreign-made panels, clashing with companies who rely on those products to build low-priced projects that can compete with gas and coal.

In a closely-watched case, the U.S. International Trade Commission is set to recommend measures to prop up the small domestic solar manufacturing industry after it ruled unanimously last month that producers have been harmed by imports.

It must deliver its report by Nov.13 to President Donald Trump, who will then decide how to proceed.

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ITC hearing coverage part 2: Don’t harm the U.S. market to save a few companies

PV Magazine

10/3/17

There aren’t many surprises in the testimony against the trade remedies being discussed today. The core talking points by SEIA and its allies, which span the U.S. solar and power landscape, are essentially unchanged: that imposing significant tariffs, minimum prices and import restrictions on U.S. solar will significantly damage the market, as well as other U.S. solar manufacturing sectors.

The core of this argument is also unchanged from the injury hearing: that any trade remedies that increase prices will decrease solar deployment, in term causing a much larger number of layoffs than any jobs saved or created in U.S. manufacturing.

This point was made quite forcefully by Craig Cornelius of NRG Energy, who noted thatthe deployment of a single 100 MW solar project requires employing around 200 construction workers – the maximum amount of SolarWorld’s new hires by next May. Given that NRG has around 20 of such projects underway, the number of construction workers to be affected here is much greater.

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ITC hearing coverage part 1: Suniva, SolarWorld double down on trade proposals

PV Magazine

10/3/17

As befits the importance of this case for the U.S. solar industry, most of the big names in U.S. solar have crammed into a hearing room at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington D.C. today, as well as representatives of four foreign governments and the European Union.

All are here to make a case as to the form of remedies that the ITC should recommend to the Trump Administration as the result of its finding that imports of solar cells and modules have seriously injured domestic manufacturing.

And the differences could not be more sharp. While SEIA has proposed minimal trade remedies consisting of a licensing fee for importers that would fund support for U.S. manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld have put forth proposals that center on steep tariffs, as well as either a minimum module price or import quotas.

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New tariff proposals put solar in 'a land of complete uncertainty' ahead of ITC hearing

Utility Dive

10/3/17

The U.S. battle over solar panel imports goes into its next round Tuesday before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), with two manufacturers easing their request for penalties on imports and opponents of such measures offering alternative solutions, including a licensing fee for imports.

While both sides aim to assist the U.S. solar industry, the changes to proposed remedies for addressing the ITC's Sept. 22 finding that cheap solar panels have injured U.S. solar manufacturers only increases uncertainty for the U.S. solar sector, and the hearing today before the ITC will likely do little to ease it. The latest proposals were outlined in briefs due to the ITC by Sept. 27. 

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This Trade Dispute Could Upend America’s Booming Solar Industry: Here’s What It Means For You

Breaking Energy

10/3/2017

If you work in the solar industry, want to buy solar panels or care about climate change, you may want to pay attention.

Two floundering solar manufacturers, with no concerns but their corporate bottom line, are about to pull the rug from under one of America’s fastest-growing industries and tens of thousands of good-paying jobs.

The manufacturers petitioned the U.S International Trade Commission this spring to take action against foreign competitors, claiming overseas rivals export products to America’s solar market at prices they can’t match. This at a time when the United States solar industry as a whole is booming.

In a decision that shook the industry and a host of free-trade advocates, ITC agreed with these single two petitioners and it’s now up to President Trump to decide whether to retaliate with an import tariff or other punitive options.

There’s a good chance he will – and this would be really bad news for American solar companies and consumers alike.

What a solar trade war would mean for you

If you’re thinking about installing solar panels or work in the solar installation industry, you’ll be hit the hardest.

The general consensus is that up to 100,000 American solar jobs are at risk, because placing a tariff or artificial floor price on solar products would make them more expensive for customers.

Prices could double and residential demand could dry up, almost overnight.

Large commercial solar projects would also become less cost-competitive and demand would decline long-term. Solar installation companies – which had the fastest job growth of any industry over the last few years – would be forced to slash jobs.

And the pain would spread beyond solar customers and workers. It would ultimately affect us all.

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