U.S. solar installers back cheap Chinese imports

A coalition of U.S. solar installers has pitted itself against domestic manufacturers that claim China is unfairly subsidizing its exports.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor
CASE is cautioning against economic protectionism.

Solidarity eludes the U.S. solar power industry as a union of solar installers has rallied against domestic manufacturers in their trade tussle against China.

A group calling itself Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) is countering a SolarWorld led group’s request that the Commerce Department and U.S. International Trade Commission investigate China for unfairly subsidizing its solar industry.

The complainants say that China is giving its domestic producers an unfair advantage through an illicit combination of cash grants, sweetheart loans, and tax incentives, in addition to currency manipulation and markdowns on raw materials. SolarWorld has corralled together seven U.S. manufacturers of solar cells.

The SolarWorld led group notes that seven U.S. manufacturers (most famously Solyndra) has shut down operations during the past 18 months as the volume of Chinese imports has surged. Others see that as an upside.

CASE contends that global competition is making solar energy more affordable, and that any protectionist action to block Chinese imports harms both the solar industry and its customers. Photovoltaic installations in China are on track to match the capacity of U.S. installations this year.

“There's been overwhelming opposition throughout the U.S. solar industry to SolarWorld's short-sighted trade petition. The vast majority of the existing 100,000 jobs in the solar industry are in sales, marketing, design, installation, and maintenance,” Jigar Shah, co-founder and Chairman of CASE and head of the Carbon War Room and founder of Sun Edison, said in a statement today.

“These jobs depend on affordably priced solar panels and companies would have to lay-off workers if panel prices rose as a result of this petition. We urge policymakers to find a resolution to this petition in a manner that preserves the U.S. solar industry and solar investments.”

CASE’s membership includes Alpine Solar Energy, American Solar Systems, Solar City, SunEdison, and Westinghouse Solar.

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