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U.S. International Trade Commission Finds Domestic Solar Manufacturing Companies Harmed by Foreign Imports

September 25, 2017

The U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) issued a determination on Friday, September 22, 2017, finding that solar panel imports are hurting domestic businesses that operate in the solar industry. The ITC’s determination was issued in connection with a trade case filed in April 2017 by a Georgia-based company, Suniva, Inc., shortly after filing for bankruptcy protection. SolarWorld Americas, Inc. joined Suniva’s petition in May 2017. Suniva and SolarWorld Americas seek tariffs of 40 cents per watt on imported cells and a floor price of 78 cents per watt on modules, asserting that tariffs and price minimums are needed to allow the American solar manufacturing industry to compete with less expensive foreign imports.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (“SEIA”), the industry’s leading trade association, the U.S. installed a record-breaking 14,762 megawatts of solar power in 2016, a 97 percent increase from 2015, and the price for solar photovoltaic systems fell nearly 20 percent in 2016. According to SEIA’s estimates, imposing the requested tariffs could destroy 88,000 U.S. jobs in installation, sales and construction in the solar industry in 2018, and the utility-scale solar market could see jobs shrink by 60 percent.

Even prior to Friday’s ITC determination, the U.S. solar industry had begun exhibiting the effects of the pending trade case. Prices for solar panels have increased in the last few months because of buyers’ rush to get ahead of potential tariffs and solar-farm developers’ concerns about long-term commitments to supply power at prices that could become uneconomical if tariffs raise their costs.

The ITC will now proceed to the remedy stage of the investigation and will hold a public hearing on October 3, 2017, to determine the course of action/remedies it will recommend to President Trump. The ITC will submit its remedy recommendations to the President by November 13, 2017, and the President will have two months to issue a final remedy. The President will have broad leeway to accept, amend or reject the ITC’s recommendations.

The ITC’s press release regarding the decision can be viewed here. For more information about the ITC decision or other questions regarding the solar industry, contact the author of this alert, Rodrigo Figueroa, at rfigueroa@dykema.com.

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