American PV module manufacturers Suniva and Auxin Solar are reportedly to have sent a petition to the US International Trade Commission (ITC) asking for an extension of the enforcement of the Section 201 tariffs. The tariffs, which will remain effective up to February 2022, were introduced in 2018 to limit imports of PV modules and cells from other countries, especially China.
Currently at a rate of 18%, the tariffs are designed to protect the American solar industry against what the US government considers as predatory pricing and unfair practices of foreign module and cell manufacturers. Suniva and Auxin Solar argue that the extension will help domestic manufacturers to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Renewable energy news websites have reported that Suniva’s production facility in Georgia has been idling for three consecutive years. The company was one of the original complainants in the Section 201 hearing.
Mamun Rashid, cofounder and CEO of Auxin Solar, said that the continuation of tariffs will help the US to regain leadership in the field of solar PV and achieve the long-term goal of renewable energy independence. Auxin Solar is recommending to ITC that the tariffs should last for four more years so as to further boost the domestic PV industry.
Conversely, the Solar Energies Industry Association (SEIA), which represents a significant portion of the American PV industry, released on statement on August 2 opposing Suniva and Auxin Solar’s petition. In this statement, John Smirnow, VP of market strategy and general counsel at SEIA, asserted that the Section 201 tariffs have been killing jobs and costing billions of dollars. Smirnow believes that lifting this punitive measure is necessary because the US must accelerate PV installations in order to reach its climate targets. Restricting cheaper imports is thus a drag on the development of the whole industry.
In place of “short-sighted” tariffs, SEIA suggests the American government should initiate policies that promote long-term investments, ensure demand certainty, and take advantage of private-sector capital. Instead of extending the Section 201 tariffs, SEIA calls for extending the Investment Tax Credit for another 10 years. The organization contends that this move will allow its members to achieve the collective goal of expanding the entire domestic manufacturing capacity for PV products to 50GW by 2030. All in all, there are alternative and less costly ways to strengthen the domestic supply chain.
Responding to SEIA’s statement, Suniva and Auxin Solar told solar news website PV Tech that the tariffs have no real negative effect on the growth of the domestic PV industry. They pointed out that domestic module manufacturers are actually expanding their operations, and ITC’s modeling on the impact of the tariffs differs significantly from SEIA’s.
According to the coverage of the event by news media, ITC will be reviewing the petition and make its recommendation to the Biden administration this December. At that time, the US President can extend the enforcement of the tariffs for up to four years or allow the tariffs to lapse.