Indian energy minister threatens to file 16 solar cases against US with WTO

India’s energy minister Piyush Goyal came out punching over the weekend when the matter of the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling was raised at a solar conference in Pune.

Having seen a U.S.-brought trade case against India’s domestic content requirement (DCR) upheld by the WTO in February, India’s power minister has said that the government intends to file 16 cases against the U.S. for allegedly violating treaties set out by the WTO.

Goyal, who was speaking at the Pune International Centre during a meeting to discuss India’s involvement in the Global Solar Alliance, said: "It amazes me that a country which speaks of encouraging green energy goes to the WTO against us and asks us to why we put up 400 MW of domestic production facility and says that we should have allowed it to compete in those 400 MW facilities, too."

The minister added that India does "not bow to this kind of pressure" and will appeal or "fight it out", adding: "I will soon come out with a policy to further encourage manufacturing in India. In fact, I am going to file 16 cases of their violations of WTO policies."

Eyeing 100 GW of cumulative solar PV capacity by 2022, India has certainly been making headlines within – and beyond – the clean power industry with its ambitions.

However, its bullishness on targets and installations, while closely aligned with actual development on the ground, may come across as "dangerous rhetoric" to the industry, Mercom Capital CEO Raj Prabhu told pv magazine.

"This could only make things worse," Prabhu said. "There seems to be a disconnect between the politicians and the reality on the ground." The Mercom analyst added that solar auctions already held in India under the DCR have not attracted as many bids as hoped, primarily for the reason that domestically manufactured solar panels are more expensive and suffer from quality issues.

"This is feedback we are getting directly from banks and developers," Prabhu said. "This issue began when India initiated an anti-dumping investigation specifically targeting the U.S., along with China, Malaysia and Taiwan."

Nobody wins in trade wars, the analyst remarked, before suggesting that, if India were to file 16 new cases, "rest assured, there will be a similar number filed by the U.S." Prabhu added that a far better approach for India to take would be to invest in ways to make local manufacturers more competitive.

"This is the nature of globalization and free markets," he concluded. "India also runs a trade surplus with the U.S., which makes these comments perplexing."