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SOLAR BLITZ: Solar companies are performing a lobbying blitz in D.C. this week against the Commerce Department’s investigation into Asian PV cell and module imports, which they say has put billions worth of business in jeopardy and left them in a “holding pattern” while they await a resolution.
The background: California-based manufacturer Auxin Solar successfully petitioned the Biden administration to look into whether imports from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia – which, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, represent some 80% of such imports to the U.S. – are circumventing existing duties on Chinese products.
The complaint from companies that build solar projects: Executives representing firms specializing in both utility-scale and residential solar projects said the investigation, opened on April 1, has forestalled new projects and even led to the outright cancellation of orders due to uncertainty around what the price of products may be if Commerce ends up imposing new duties.
Kelly Friend, VP of policy and regulatory affairs for Boston-based solar provider Nexamp, told Jeremy and Breanne her company is working “head-down” and focusing on its existing investment and projects rather than prioritizing on growth.
Thomas Neyhard, CEO of residential solar provider PosiGen, said his firm’s vendor, which is located in one of the petition’s targeted countries, cut bait because the investigation provides for Commerce to apply duties retroactively to the date it opened the probe.
“I can tell you that on April 1 that the panel company that we deal with canceled all of our orders, and we had to go looking for panels and getting out there and trying to negotiate,” he said.
Neyhart said PosiGen was able to find an alternative provider from among the four Asian countries, but that prices went up.
SEIA, of which these firms are members, circulated figures today showing the trade group has cut its forecasts for solar installations this year and next by 46% because of Commerce’s investigation.
Chad Farrell, founder and CEO of Vermont-based Encore Renewable Energy, said the investigation has put the company in a “holding pattern.”
“It’s not ideal to be in a holding pattern when you’re in a growth mode,” he said.
Make us source domestically, Lord, but not yet: The solar petition is functionally a battle between U.S. solar product manufacturers and firms that build solar energy projects which, for the relatively small size of the domestic solar manufacturing base, rely heavily on the Asian importers.
Auxin, and other manufacturers before them, argue Chinese companies are dumping cell and module products into the four Asian markets in order to avoid paying duties on Chinese products.
The rub lies in whether the work done on the products in the targeted countries is minor or insignificant and therefore merit an extension of duties. Auxin and co. say yes, while SEIA and co. say no.
In any case, the executives said solar firms want to buy American and would prefer to source all their materials from domestic manufacturers but that they can’t meet demand by using only U.S.-made solar products.
“It really is an …….