U.S. maintains solar tariffs, mixed response from industry

Anti-dumping (AD) and countervailing duties (CVD) on Chinese c-Si PV modules imported into the growing U.S. market have been prominent part of the solar marketplace since 2012. This is set to continue under a ruling handed down yesterday by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC). While tariffs for some manufacturers have been increased, others have been reduced, in a move that has drawn criticism from parts of the industry.

The DoC ruling reviews its preliminary determination and revisions made in late 2014. A full list of this latest ruling regarding combined AD and CVD tariffs has not been published in one discrete document, however it is clear that a wide range of AD rates will be applied.

At the lower end, Yingli modules will attract a 0.79% AD tariff while other Chinese manufacturers will face an AD tariff of up to 238.95%. An underlying CVD, or ‘anti-subsidy’ rate as it has been described in some sections of the media, of 23.28% will also be applied to Chinese c-Si modules imported into the U.S.

As a top-two Chinese c-Si producer and major supplier to the U.S. Yingli welcomed the ruling today, noting that it will receive the lowest combined AD and DVD rate under the final determination, of 21.73%. This is down from 29.18% under the former DoC ruling.

"While we are disappointed in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision to continue placing tariffs on an industry that is the second fastest-growing energy industry in the U.S, we are now very securely positioned to succeed in the U.S. market,” said New-York based Robert Petrina, the managing director of Yingli Green Energy Americas. “So long as these tariffs are in place, we will continue our vigorous defense and fight for solar power’s cost-competiveness.”

Not surprisingly, lobby group the Coalition for Affordable Energy (CSE) echoed Yingli’s remarks, noting that the rates set are higher than those handed down in January 2015, across all manufacturers.

“This determination is another disappointing move toward short-sighted protectionism for the American solar industry,” said SunEdison co-founder and CASE president Jigar Shah. “Too much of the solar industry remains embroiled in SolarWorld’s unnecessary, wasteful trade conflict. Uncertainty is sure to continue with more trade litigation, and all solar companies are paying the price. We urge SolarWorld to negotiate a reasonable solution with international manufacturers which can be implemented by the governments of the United States and China.“

Welcomed by some

Pro-tariff groups have come in support of the maintaining of tariffs. EU ProSun said the “continued massive dumping by Chinese exporters” had resulted in the tariffs being maintained and in some cases increased, and that dumping distorts global solar trade.

“Since the introduction of measures against Chinese dumping the U.S. market is booming, and there is a great variety of solar products for consumers and installers to choose from,” said Milan Nitzschke, president of EU ProSun. He noted that the U.S. solar market is currently the fastest growing globally.

"Last year, the United States brought online as much solar energy every three weeks as it did in all of 2008," added Nitzschke. He argues that the U.S. market is materially different from the EU ‘historic’ markets, in that it is not largely driven by subsidies such as FITs.

EU ProSun labels itself a European solar manufacturing initiative, however it has recently clashed with the former European Photovoltaic Industry Association over its objection to EU tariffs and the minimum price deal, and a number of German upstream manufacturers such as Wacker have spoken out against solar trade barriers. EPIA has since rebranded as Solar Power Europe.

This most recent DoC ruling has included a determination regarding some Chinese manufacturers not previously covered by the AD and CVD measures. These include e-mobility and battery storage giant BYD. These new additions have attracted AD tariffs of 20.94%.