|US raises tariffs on Chinese solar imports
Following complaints by US solar panel manufacturers, the US Department of Commerce has imposed 31% import tariffs on 61 Chinese solar panel manufacturers. Tariffs of up to 250% are being applied to other manufacturers that didn't cooperate with the Department’s investigation.
US solar panel manufacturers claimed Chinese firms were dumping solar panels on the US market at a price below the cost of manufacture, driving US firms out of business.
Chinese firms have been expecting this decision, however, and have been preparing for it for a year or so. Suntech Power, the world’s largest solar panel maker has said it can avoid the tariff by not selling solar panels that were manufactured in China into the US market. Rather, by selling solar panels in which the parts were sourced elsewhere in the world and that are manufactured in the US it can evade the tariff completely.
Chinese firms have condemned the US move and commentators fear this could start a trade war between the two countries. If this does happen the first casualty will be consumers as prices rise. The second will be the solar industry itself, as it continues to fight collectively to establish itself. A trade war will certainly not help it achieve the scale of deployment it needs to bring the average price per watt down in line with conventional sources of energy.
If the Chinese firms are actually guilty of dumping, this can’t be helped. If they are not, as they maintain, the victory will be short-lived for US firms. They may survive behind a trade barrier for now, but after Solyndra the last thing the industry needs is an uncompetitive solar panel bubble that can burst at the stroke of an officials pen.