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ITC upholds tariffs on solar panels from China

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2013
The US will soon impose tariffs on solar panels imported from China, now that the US International Trade Commission has voted unanimously that the US industry was “materially injured” by cheap subsidized imports.

The ITC voted 6-0 against imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules from China that the Commerce Department said were subsidized and sold in the US at less than fair value. The vote means that the Commerce Department will issue tariffs of between 24 and 36 percent on imports of the products from China.

The decision covers certain crystalline silicon PV cells, not thin-film PV products produced from amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

Photonics Media photo by Melinda A. Rose

There are 14 US producers of crystalline silicon PV modules employing 1856 workers, according to the Commerce Department. In 2011, China exported 1.5 million kilowatts’ worth of those types of cells and modules to the US, with a value of $1.9 billion.

Because the ITC also ruled 4-2 against “critical circumstances,” the tariffs won’t apply retroactively to modules made with cells that were exported to the US during the investigation. On Oct. 17, the Commerce Department determined that subsidies were being provided to producers and exporters of crystalline silicon PV cells in China, and that “there have been massive imports ... over a relatively short period of time.”

“Today’s unanimous vote by the International Trade Commission confirms what has been apparent in the marketplace for the past two years – Chinese manufacturers, with the enthusiastic support of the Chinese government, have attempted to game the international trading system in order to gain a virtual monopoly on solar cells and modules sales in the US market,” said SolarWorld Industries America Inc. President Gordon Brinser. Oregon-based SolarWorld leads the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing, and filed the original complaint with the US government.

China’s actions have resulted in “more than a dozen companies either shutting down manufacturing facilities or significantly cutting back production and employment in the United States,” Brinser added. “With this relief, combined with an aggressive domestic enforcement regime, there is hope that the United States can maintain a viable solar manufacturing base, conduct ongoing research and development, and continue to make solar an increasingly viable part of the American renewable energy portfolio.”

“Now that both Commerce and the ITC have ruled, we will continue to encourage dialogue and negotiation between the US and Chinese governments to seek a constructive resolution,” said Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which opposed the tariffs. “Fortunately, the scope of the decision is unchanged and is limited to solar cells produced in China, thereby minimizing harm to the US solar industry,” he added.

solar cell
A device for converting sunlight into electrical energy, consisting of a sandwich of P-type and N-type semiconducting wafers. A photon with sufficient energy striking the cell can dislodge an electron from an atom near the interface of the two crystal types. Electrons released in this way, collected at an electrode, can constitute an electrical current.
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