The Department of Commerce preliminarily ruled that China is subsidizing certain crystalline silicone photovoltaic (PV) products at a rate of 18.56% to 35.21%, marking another win for SolarWorld.
Commerce announced its affirmative preliminary determination in a new countervailing duty (CVD) investigation on imports of PV cells, modules, laminates, and panels.
The agency calculated a preliminary subsidy rate of 18.56% for Changzhou Trina Solar Energy Co., which includes Trina Solar (Changzhou) Science & Technology Co. It also calculated a rate of 35.21% for Wuxi Suntech Power and five of its affiliates. All other producers/exporters in China have been assigned a preliminary rate of 26.89%.
Wuxi Suntech Power, China’s largest solar maker, is restructuring after filing for bankruptcy earlier this year. The company cited financial troubles arising from the solar module price slump after capacity outpaced growth in demand. Trina Solar, the country’s second-largest panel maker, saw three straight profitable quarters this year.
The agency is now expected to announce its final determination in the investigation by Aug. 18. If it makes an affirmative final determination, and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) follows suit, Commerce will issue a CVD order.
The U.S. ITC in November 2012 unanimously determined that imports of crystalline silicon PV cells and modules from China materially injured the U.S. industry, clearing the way for the Commerce Department to issue antidumping and CVDs of between 31% and 250% on Chinese producers. The scope of the agency’s new investigation specifically excludes those products covered by the existing antidumping and CVD orders.
In 2013, imports of certain crystalline silicon PV products from China were valued at an estimated $1.5 billion.
While SolarWorld hailed the Commerce Department’s finding, solar industry group the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said the decision “threatens to derail the rapid growth of the U.S. solar industry.”
“Ironically, the tariffs may provide little to no direct benefit to the sole petitioner SolarWorld, as we saw in the 2012 investigations. It’s time to end this needless litigation with a negotiated solution that addresses SolarWorld’s trade allegations while ensuring the continued growth of the U.S. solar market,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch.
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Commerce on Wednesday said that it “is strongly dissatisfied about” the second U.S. investigation launched against China’s PV products, calling it an attempt to “levy high tax.”
“The restriction about Chinese products is an abuse of trade remedy measures and of great protectionism, which is bound to upgrade China-U.S. trade disputes about PV products,” an official with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said.
—Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)