In March, the U.S. Commerce Department ruled to impose fees on solar panels imported from China on the basis that Chinese manufacturers receive enormous subsidies that drive Chinese solar panel prices so low that U.S. manufacturers cannot compete.
The preliminary tariffs go as high as 4.73 percent, which Bloomberg called “a slap on the wrist” since Chinese panels already cost about 12 percent less than American-made panels.
But this week the Commerce Department is considering much higher tariffs–possibly as high as 100 percent–a move that has caused a split in the American solar industry as manufacturers and installation companies stand on opposite sides of the issue.
While struggling solar manufacturers in the United States are looking to tariffs to keep their companies afloat, many solar installation companies appreciate the less expensive solar panels flowing in from China.
Cheaper panels prices have made solar installations a reality for many American families and businesses that couldn’t afford a solar investment as recently as two years ago. Chinese solar panels have come down 80 percent in price in the last five years with half of that occurring in the last 12 months.
Industry experts are monitoring the Commerce Department’s decision carefully. Bloomberg editors believe that in all likelihood, the U.S. will probably approve the tariffs, but add that a tariff level set too high will cripple the fragile solar industry in the U.S. Bloomberg said in an article published today,
“…Rather than giving in to protectionist tendencies, we encourage the U.S. to take a more diplomatic approach and begin earnest negotiations for a clean-energy trade agreement. Such an idea had been discussed as part of the stalled Doha trade talks and should be revived.”
The New York Times expanded on another aspect of the issue, namely the accusation that China created an anti-dumping violation by exporting excessive amounts of inexpensive solar panels that now sit in warehouses and shipyards around the United States. The Times quoted an executive in the Chinese solar industry as saying that “if his side lost the preliminary verdict, it would be sure to keep up its legal fight through the final judgment several months from now.”
If the Commerce Department does approve the increased anti-subsidy tariff and acknowledge an anti-dumping violation, lawyers representing Chinese solar panel manufacturers will argue to keep the combined monetary effect to less than 10 percent total.