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Anonymous solar panel companies still hidden in public Commerce tariff petition docs

Written by: Leonard Parker | Solar News | 15th October

The American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention (A-SMACC), the group that filed a petition with the Dept. of Commerce to review Chinese solar panel companies allegedly circumventing antidumping and countervailing (AD/CV) duties by manufacturing portions of their products in three Southeast Asian countries, has provided additional information to Commerce as requested, but the members remain anonymous in public documents.

Discarded solar cells. Credit: Solar Power World

The Commerce Dept. requested the names of the companies in order to determine if they have any business relationships with Chinese solar panel manufacturers or perform manufacturing work in Malaysia, Thailand or Vietnam. A-SMACC revealed its members to Commerce, but their information was redacted throughout the 380-page response made public.

In August, A-SMACC filed its petition asking for an investigation into Chinese silicon solar panel manufacturing companies working in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam as a way to avoid AD/CV duties. Various forms of these duties have been in place against Chinese solar manufacturers since 2012. Any silicon solar imports from China come with an extra tax from Commerce. Some Chinese companies, in a possible attempt to avoid paying the tax, have moved portions of their manufacturing capacity to other Asian countries, according to the petition. A-SMACC requests additional tariffs ranging from 50 to 250% on imports from Chinese companies working in the three Southeast Asian countries.

The members of A-SMACC, represented by law firm Wiley Rein LLP, requested anonymity because of fear of “retaliation” from the various Chinese companies, including Astronergy, Boviet Solar, Canadian Solar, JA Solar, JinkoSolar, LONGi, Sunergy (CSUN), Talesun Solar and Trina Solar.

The Commerce Dept. can now decide whether to investigate these circumvention claims further. If it chooses to take up the investigation, there will be a 45-day review, with a final decision then possibly coming in late November.

Industry advocacy group SEIA has aggressively opposed the Commerce petition by A-SMACC and held a press conference with national media explaining the potential outcomes of further tariffs. Many of the country’s largest solar installers have stated that the threat of tariffs has already stalled module deliveries and jeopardizes future construction.

With no domestic silicon solar cell manufacturers, and domestic module manufacturing capacity at less than 8 GW, the United States depends on solar module imports to meet demand. The country is expected to install 30 GW of solar in 2022 and 32 GW in 2023. Without normal supply from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, SEIA is predicting installs to fall to less than 26 GW in 2022 and 18 GW in 2023 — or a loss of 18 GW over the next two years.

A-SMACC believes further tariffs would boost domestic manufacturing, but with the time and financial investments needed to start domestic cell production and grow module assembly capacity, installation numbers will suffer in the meantime. And any drop in expected solar installations would put the country further behind in meeting the Biden Administration’s clean energy goals.