Solar Industry Divided Over Trade Dispute

On Friday, as the Department of Commerce opened its investigation on the US solar company trade complaint against China for “dumping” solar panels in the US at prices that are killing domestic solar manufacturers, a new solar industry group formed to fight the trade complaint.

The complaint was filed by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), led by SolarWorld, the largest US manufacturer, and consists of a handful of anonymous solar companies.

The new trade group, Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), consists of 25 companies on the other side of the industry – buyers and installers – that are benefiting from low prices on solar systems.

CASE argues that duties on Chinese solar panels would raise prices and thus slow US adoption of solar energy and restrain the domestic industry.

A PV Magazine poll shows that 76% of the industry opposes the manufacturers’ petition.

So, for the first time, the solar industry is divided and pitted against itself.

US solar installations had a banner year in 2010 and will again in 2011, but it comes at the expense of US solar manufacturers, CASM says. Chinese solar manufacturers raised their share of the US market from almost zero five years ago to 50%-plus now.

The US is poised to install 1,750 megawatts of solar PV in 2011, double last year’s total and enough to power 350,000 homes.

As of August, there are 100,237 solar jobs across all 50 states in over 5000 companies.

The manufacturing group wants tariffs of over 100% on imports of Chinese solar panels, which have pushed prices down to $1-$1.20 per watt from $3.30 in 2008.

Under the law, the Commerce Department must issue a preliminary decision on the antidumping claim no later than mid-March and on the antisubsidy claim by mid-May.

The government-controlled Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association says, “They attempt to shift the responsibility of U.S. clean energy development failure, especially President Obama’s personal responsibility, to Chinese solar cell companies.”

Instead of duking it out, the US and China should work together to reduce solar costs, Li Junfeng, president of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association told the NY Times. He also denied that solar companies received extravagant subsidies saying that individual firms received no more than $10 million and that was mostly in 2005 and 2006.

Original Article on SustainableBusiness.com

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