We’ve received a lot of questions over the last couple of months about the on-going trade dispute with China over the price of Chinese-made crystalline solar modules. Crystalline modules are by far the most commonly installed module type in the United States. Currently the trade dispute doesn’t include thin-film or other solar equipment. Given the central importance of equipment affordability to the solar industry we figure it’s high time to put a quick blog post together summarizing the trade dispute so far.
On October 19th, 2011, SolarWorld and unnamed companies under the newly formed Coalition for American Solar Manufacturers (CASM) file a lawsuit with the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the International Trade Commission (ITC) asking for 100% import duties on crystalline modules imported from China. Two types of investigations are on-going by the DOC/ITC. The first type is a countervailing duties (CVD) investigation. If the DOC/ITC find merit to the SolarWorld lawsuit then the US can impose counter-tariffs to offset the unfairly priced Chinese modules. The second is an anti-dumping (AD) investigation. In a “dumping” investigation the DOC/ITC investigate whether low-priced Chinese modules have caused “injury” to the US economy. If the investigations find “injury” then strong fines could be imposed on China for any crystalline solar modules that they export in addition to countervailing duties. If both CVD and AD fines are imposed module prices exported from China would increase dramatically, forcing Chinese manufacturers to find alternative channels to distribute their products. Many China-based modules manufacturers have preemptively begun to invest in production facilities in Taiwan and other southeast Asian countries not subject to the threat of US import tariffs.
Below timeline acquired from GTM’s Solar Power Year in Review 2011 article.
October 19th, 2011- SolarWorld and unnamed companies under the newly formed Coalition of American Solar Manufacturers (CASM) file an AD and CVD claim with the DOC and the ITC, setting in motion a timeline for the DOC and ITC to form separate investigations.
November 8th, 2011- DOC initiated investigation
December 5th, 2011- ITC made preliminary determination of injury, confirming that they will continue investigation
March 27th, 2012- DOC to make determination in its AD and CVD investigation
May 11th, 2012- ITC to make initial determination on CVD investigation
May 18th, 2012- ITC issues orders on its CVD investigation
June 11th, 2012- DOC final determination on its AD investigation
July 25th, 2012- ITC final determination on its AD investigation
August 1st, 2012- DOC final determination on AD investigation
The DOC/ITC schedule is staggered so that the DOC can follow the ITC’s lead on its determinations on the anti-dumping allegations, but the DOC will make a determination before the ITC on the CVD investigation. In candid discussions with some industry experts we’ve been led to believe that some CVD determination will be made by the Department of Commerce in March. If either CVD or AD fines are imposed, crystalline module prices will increase for both China-derived modules as well as modules made in the US and other countries.