ITC Solar Trade Case Vote Causes Uncertainty in Industry: Media Coverage

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This article was update October 27, 2017

Stoel Rives energy attorney Morten Lund has become a go-to source for news stories covering the late-September U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) unanimous vote affirming that increased imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) products, such as solar cells, modules and panels, had caused “serious injury” to U.S. manufacturers.

Petitioner Suniva, supported by SolarWorld, had asked for duties of $0.40/watt on imported solar cells and a floor price of $0.78/watt on imported modules, which, if the ITC recommends and President Trump approves, could mean the loss of 88,000 jobs in installation, sales and construction, according to estimates by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Shortly after the vote, Lund and his colleagues posted an extensive article to our Renewable + Law® blog, “5 Things Reflected in the ITC’s Suniva Injury-Phase Vote and What Comes Next.”

Other media coverage has included:

Solar Tariff Case Advances as ITC Finds ‘Injury’

Greentech Media quoted Lund on the possible effect of the remedy sought by the petitioners.

“If we’re talking about a 40 cent per watt increase…it would take out a lot of projects,” he said, while noting that he is not worried about places like California or the Northeast—which have renewable energy mandates—but states like Texas, where tariffs could “completely obliterate the utility market.”

Published by Greentech Media, September 22, 2017. The full article can be found here.

Trade Commission Votes In Favor Of Suniva And SolarWorld

Solar Industry reported on next steps as the ITC moves on to the remedy phase—a hearing on October 3 and recommendations to President Trump by November 13, after which he will have about two months to decide whether to adopt the recommendation, another remedy or none at all.

According to Lund: “With a 4-0 vote, it seems likely that the president will impose a remedy or risk backlash from ignoring a unanimous vote of injury from the USITC, the country’s trade watchdog. The remedy hearing and process will tell us a lot about how much the commission will consider the impact on the greater solar industry or energy sector in fashioning a remedy. The president has shown a strong protectionist leaning in trade matters, particularly with regard to China, and is known to favor tariffs generally. That would tend to support an expectation that he will implement a remedy.”

Published by Solar Industry, September 22, 2017. The full article can be found here.

Solar ruling may tee up Trump to impose tariffs, could increase costs in California

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the effect the proposed remedy might have on the solar industry in California, where the mandate for utilities to ensure a certain percentage of their energy comes from renewable sources such as solar means an increase in the price of solar panels and modules will likely have ripple effects.

“It will be passed through in rates, that’s for sure,” Lund said. “It would affect the commercial and residential projects which are not mandated but are driven by price.”

Published by The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 22, 2017. The full article can be found here.

Solar sector steels for tariff fight after ITC harm ruling 

UtilityDive contributed an analysis of the ITC ruling. Lund and associate Elliott Williams were quoted about another possible remedy the president might approve—a minimum floor price, which would be easier to implement and could ease potential disputes at the border.

“If it’s a floor price it’s easy to set and could be set apart from” the other tariffs already in place from previous trade cases, Williams said.

“Regardless of what the answer is the implementation will be complex,” Lund said.

Published by UtilityDive, September 25, 2017. The full article can be found here.

4 Things To Watch For After ITC's Solar Imports Ruling

Law360 weighed in with its own analysis. Lund was quoted over uncertainty about how the president, who makes the final call to impose any tariffs and has broad discretion to ignore the ITC's recommendations, might respond.

"We honestly don't know what will happen, more so because of the president we're dealing with," Lund said. "The industry can't celebrate over Thanksgiving when [the ITC] recommends a manageable remedy."

Published by Law360, September 25, 2017. The full article can be found here. (Subscription required.)

Industry reacts to US ITC “injury” ruling

In an analysis in NewsBase’s Renewable Energy Monitor, Lund is quoted on the actions already being considered by U.S.-based manufacturers of solar cells and modules—building manufacturing plants in the U.S.—that would partly mitigate any barriers imposed by the president in January.

“It won’t be overnight, but it will be much faster than you’d expect for big infrastructure to happen,” Lund said. If there were a 40-cent tariff, he said that a factory in Arizona could become “very profitable, very quickly.”

Published by NewsBase, September 28, 2017. The full article can be found here. (PDF)

5 Key Takeaways From the ITC’s Solar Trade Case Vote

Greentech Media reposted Lund’s blog post.

Published by Greentech Media, September 28, 2017. The full article can be found here.

Suniva, SolarWorld and Their Opponents File New Trade Remedy Proposals

Greentech Media published an article, with a quote from Lund’s blog post and a link to it, detailing proposals by stakeholders as the remedy phase of the solar trade case began, including Suniva and SolarWorld’s reduced recommendations of a tariff of $0.25/watt on imported solar cells and a floor price of $0.74/watt on imported modules or an import quota starting at 0.22 gigawatts for cells and 5.7 gigawatts for modules.

Published by Greentech Media, September 29, 2017. The full article can be found here.

New tariff proposals put solar in 'a land of complete uncertainty' ahead of ITC hearing

UtilityDive published an article in advance of the Oct. 3 hearing, detailing the uncertainty caused by the revised Suniva and SolarWorld proposals, by alternative solutions offered by opponents of the proposed measures, and by the question of how the president will respond.

“We could plan a response to the proposed tariff, despite its harshness, but this president might decide to change it, so we’re in the land of complete uncertainty,” Lund said.

Published by UtilityDive, October 3, 2017. The full article can be found here.

Commissioners Hear Final Trade-Case Arguments Before They Send Advice to Trump

Greentech Media published an article after the ITC hearing, in which representatives of Suniva and SolarWorld endorsed their proposed tariffs on imported solar equipment and many more witnesses testified as to the measures’ threat to the U.S. solar industry.

Lund was quoted on the ITC’s finding that imports from countries under a free-trade agreement with the U.S., including Mexico and South Korea, had caused serious injury, while imports from Canada, Singapore and several free-trade partners in South America caused a lack of injury due to a low volume of imports.

“I think NAFTA will be a huge issue,” Lund said. “They have to address it in some fashion, or else there will be even more confusion.”

Published by Greentech Media, October 4, 2017, The full article can be found here.

Solar Industry On Edge, Waiting To See If Trump Will Impose Tariffs On Panels

Lund was interviewed for a story that aired on station KJZZ 91.5 in Phoenix. The story discusses the possible impacts of the tariff that may be imposed by President Trump, particularly on the largest facilities, known as “utility-scale solar,” a sector that has grown 72 percent each year on average since 2010 in part due to the availability of cheap panels manufactured overseas.

Lund said that solar facilities rely on economies of scale and pricing certainty, which means doubling the price of panels would make many potential projects no longer cost-effective.

“That’s a completely massive game changing increase and so it’s not something you can just casually plan around,” he said.

Published by KJZZ/Rio Salado College/MCCCD, October 27, 2017. The full article can be found here.

Stayed tuned for more from Morten Lund and our other energy attorneys on this important issue.

 
 

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