- A trade dispute over the price of imported solar panels could mean serious trouble for the United States industry, according to new analysis fom GTM Research. The firm estimates more than 47 GW of solar installations could be at risk if Suniva wins its case before the International Trade Commission.
- Suniva declared bankruptcy in April but has asked ITC to place tariffs on imported crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) cells, primarily from China, which it says are responsible for its struggles.
- Suniva is seeking an initial additional tariff of $0.40/watt and a floor price of $0.78/watt, which GTM said would leave many planned solar installations, particularly utility-scale, uneconomical.
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 U.S. solar industry.
While utility-scale installations would be hardest hit, residential projects would fare somewhat better.
The segment is the "least sensitive" to tariffs, though it would cut the number of states where solar energy is at parity with grid-supplied power. But the top six markets would still offer about 10% annual savings, the firm concluded.
While Suniva is seeking tariffs on all solar panels imported into the U.S., the Solar Energy Industries Association has voiced strong opposition to the idea.
The solar group argued two points: that Suniva is not representative of the CSPV manufacturing industry and therefore does not have standing to bring the case, and the tariffs would be “extremely damaging” to the solar power industry in the U.S., imperiling some 260,000 jobs
SEIA's letter to the ITC argued that Suniva accounted for just 21% of U.S. CSPV production in 2016 and 14% in 2015, and that producers that make up the balance of U.S. CSPV output have not expressed support for Suniva.
The United States has notified the World Trade Organization late last month that it is considering imposing emergency tariffs on imported solar cells. The ITC intends to make a determination by Sept. 22 on whether or not to impose tariffs. If it decides to take action, the commission will deliver its tariff proposal to President Trump by Nov. 13.
While President Trump has been a strong supporter of fossil fuels, he also campaigned on a populist "America First" platform and has previously flirted with the idea of tariffs on goods from China.