First Solar and China Sunergy urge Indian government to drop dumping investigation

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An Indian investigation into claims that U.S., European, Chinese, Malaysian and Japanese pv manufacturers dumped solar cells on the Indian market is flawed, undermined by errors and should be dropped, according to China Sunergy Co. and First Solar Inc. of the U.S.

The Indian government began its investigation in November 2012, looking into claims that imported PV cells and modules were being sold below cost. However, China Sunergy has said in a statement that by witholding information that should have been made available to all parties, the country has broken disclosure rules and had "cleary acted beyond the scope of its powers".

The dumping accusations were made by local Indian manufacturers Indosolar Ltd., Jupiter Solar Power Ltd. and Websol Energy System Ltd. Yet Arizona-based First Solar have remarked that the import data these companies have provided contains "serious errors" and once amended would show that U.S. imports were not sold below cost.

For their part, India’s domestic producers have each argued that the data provided was the best available at the time, while both China Sunergy and First Solar have confirmed the authenticity of their written statements, reports Bloomberg.

The conflict could widen divisions between the world’s largest economies as each fights to protect its own solar industry amid a climate of oversupply that has injuriously impacted PV prices. And with India’s burgeoning solar power industry looking hitherto robust – capacity has increased more than 70-fold in just three years – it is feared that such a dispute could hinder ongoing investment.

India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has planned to almost triple India’s output capacity to 5 GW by 2020, yet domestic manufacturers have failed to win orders, selling just 9.67 MW of capacity in a market that recorded 931 MW in annualized sales, according to the testimony from Indosolar, Websol and Jupiter. They claim that foreign manufacturers have undercut their prices by as much as 20%.

Critics of the investigation extend beyond First Solar and Sunergy. Mercom Capital Group LLC, a consulting firm based in Texas, believes the dispute has "all but paralyzed the sector," adding: "It’s naive to think that India can impose antidumping tariffs and at the same time attract investments from these same markets."

The largest PV developer in India, Welspun Energy Ltd., has also waded into the debate, claiming that costs will increase and quality will be compromised if solar power projects in India are forced to purchase local equipment.?? "Not a single Indian manufacturer can provide insurance" for their modules for the 25-year lifetime of projects, the company’s Managing Director Vineet Mittel said in August, adding that locally made cells are not as efficient as foreign-made ones at converting sunlight into electricity.

In the written testimony from China Sunergy, the company asserted that their cells have efficiencies of more than 19%, while Indian-made models could claim only 16.5%. ??"The inability of the domestic industry to keep up with the technological developments of the global industry has limited its ability to compete with international manufacturers and is a major cause for injury," said China Sunergy’s testimony. "India should terminate its investigation."

Bloomberg also report that the Indian commerce ministry official handling the case, J.S. Deepak, had failed to respond to e-mails and phone calls requesting comment on the case, and has remained quiet on questions about a public file of evidence that all cases are required to maintain under India’s antidumping rules.