SEIA Urges SolarWorld to Offer Proposal in Solar Trade Dispute

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The U.S.-China solar trade dispute has been going on for a while and has so far shown little sign of being settled.

Behind the push to impose duties on panel imports has been SolarWorld, which has been using the fact that its panels are made in America as a selling point. Yet the low cost of imported panels has been a factor in the plummeting price of solar in the U.S., which has led to a booming market. That’s caused some division on the issue within the industry.

Whichever side you favor, a trade dispute isn’t good for the industry, and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has been urging an end to the battle. SolarWorld has not taken kindly to this; President Mukesh Dulani said in a letter to SEIA President Rhone Resch this week that SEIA leadership is being “divisive” and is encouraging some of its Chinese members to “break U.S. laws.”

He claimed that SolarWorld is open to “alternative remedies” and added, “SolarWorld has never closed the door on negotiations as long as they include two very basic conditions. First, any agreement or negotiated solution must eliminate China’s unfair trade practices. Second, it must be enforceable.” He emphasized that although SolarWorld is open to a negotiated settlement, SEIA’s September 2013 proposal does not fit the bill. And he called for a reformulated proposal from SEIA.

SEIA responded with a letter to SolarWorld, urging the manufacturer to offer a specific proposal for reaching a negotiated settlement.

Since the solar trade war first began in 2011, Resch wrote, “SEIA has been steadfast in its support for the rules-based global trading system, including trade remedy proceedings.” He added, “Continued litigation is bad for the industry and, we believe, bad for SolarWorld. SEIA’s settlement proposal remains the best path forward. But we will not preclude any settlement option that serves the greater interests of the U.S. solar industry.”

Resch noted recently that we currently have a brief window of opportunity for the interested parties to move forward on settlement discussions. A SEIA delegation is meeting with solar manufacturers in China to discuss how to accomplish this.

Some in the industry have pointed to the benefits of the cheap solar panels that have been flooding the U.S. market and making solar more affordable. That’s helped grow the industry and support installation jobs, which are more plentiful and can’t be outsourced. At the same time, American manufacturers are finding ways to cut costs at home, and profiting from the fact that many U.S. customers prefer to buy American-made panels. As the industry matures and soft costs are lowered, we may have less need of cheap Chinese panels to keep the industry thriving.

Still, Resch stressed that SEIA does not intend to support the rest of the industry at the expense of manufacturing. He emphasized that SEIA represents the entire solar value chain in the United States, including manufacturers — as well as installers, financiers, engineers, project developers, consultants, and retailers. SEIA, he said, is committed to finding an “industry-wide solution.”

To see the full text of the letter, visit the SEIA website.