After a long and contentious campaign by both parties the U.S. has made a final decision…in the International Trade Commission’s (ITC) final ruling on Chinese silicon photovoltaics (Bet you didn’t see the second part of that sentence coming). In its final ruling on the PV trade issue ITC upheld the duties on Chinese-made PVs but didn’t impose “critical circumstances” sanctions, which would have imposed duties retroactively on Chinese PV modules. Its a ruling that will impact companies like ecoSolargy and GT Advanced Technologies.
Two industry groups, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) and the Coalistion for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM)—led by SolarWorld Americas, were at loggerheads on the trade case. CASM initiated the case, and CASE was formed to oppose it.
The ruling will likely impact the price of PV, but not nearly as much as a few years ago, observes ecoSolargy CEO Alan Lee. “Thirty percent of our product is less than dollar. A few years ago it would have been much more,” he said. ecoSolargy is a California-based integrated PV supplier that has its modules manufactured overseas, particularly in China, Taiwan and Korea. A few years ago it would have been more like 30 percent of $3 or $4 dollars, he said. “We’re looking to see if its something can absorb.…Costs might go up 10 percent or so.”
“We retain the view that these tariffs will make solar products more expensive and delay the growth of this important renewable source of energy. It will also make it more difficult for U.S. entrepreneurial companies like GT to export solar products abroad, which further risks the loss of American jobs. Lastly, the tariffs threaten to spark a solar trade war with China, a key U.S. economic partner," said Tom Gutierrez, CEO of GT Advanced Technologies. GT makes solar and LED manufacturing equipment, which it exports to China and other countries.
Still Guitierez was pleased with some aspects of today’s ruling. "Although the ITC did not overturn the Commerce Department’s tariffs on solar cell imports – which we believe will negatively impact the U.S. solar industry – we welcome the ITC’s determination that no “critical circumstances” exist and thus there is no reason for retroactive application of these burdensome tariffs.”
ecoSolargy already is working on ways to keep its manufacturing costs down, according to Lee. “We started to work with manufacturers around world,” he said. Thus far it’s partners are manufacturing in Taiwan and Korea, in addition to manufacturing in China.
“It really depends on the market and how much we’re paying for the wafers and the cells at the moment.” Sometimes it will make sense to manufacture the wafers in one country and the modules in another depending on the current prices, he said.