Last month, hundreds of solar workers descended upon Washington, D.C., for a hearing at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) as a show of force against Suniva and SolarWorld’s Section 201 petition. Since the petition was submitted in April, we at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) have heard nearly universal opposition from solar companies large and small and across all sectors of the U.S. supply chain.
If the remedies sought by Suniva are implemented, it would double panel prices, halt many gigawatts of U.S. solar installations and cost 88,000 Americans their jobs. The workers who showed up from Massachusetts and Minnesota and North Carolina and California and Pennsylvania and New Jersey, among others, did so because they recognize that well-paying American jobs are at stake – theirs.
We demonstrated at the August 15 injury hearing that the bankrupt companies’ failures were the result of their own poor management decisions. And now the ITC is due to decide Sept. 22 whether solar equipment from other countries is a “substantial cause” of serious injury to these companies. It is not.
The broader industry is unified in opposition, and if the case moves forward to a remedy stage, we all must be ready to make a strong argument that these two companies and their hedge fund investors should not be paid to cover their bad bets. While the ITC will have an additional two months to recommend a remedy if injury is determined, the decision ultimately would lie with the president. As an industry, we have engaged with leaders in the Trump administration, and we will continue to make them aware of the terrible effects of this petition if the case moves forward.
One red herring the other side has come up with is that they represent American manufacturing. But this case would hit domestic manufacturers particularly hard. There are more than 600 solar manufacturing facilities across the U.S., making modules, cells, inverters, and racking and mounting systems, and they are often exporting these products around the world. America’s solar industry supports 38,000 manufacturing jobs, and the proposed trade barriers will undercut demand across the board, including in our manufacturing sector.
While SEIA is putting great emphasis on this trade case and the thousands of jobs at risk, we are not halting the work we do in other critical areas. State policy, grid modernization, codes and standards and removing barriers to solar adoption are all major areas of focus concurrent with the trade fight. But it is true that the trade case is the biggest threat to our industry.
In the past five years, the cost of solar has dropped by 63%, installed capacity has more than doubled and employment has skyrocketed past many traditional fuel sources. Free and fair trade supports this dramatic growth in America. Continuing to foster smart policy will triple U.S. solar capacity by 2022 and bring total employment in solar to more than 300,000 workers.
If we lose the case, on the other hand, solar will be priced out against fossil fuels and other renewables, and the jobs will start to dwindle, as production of new solar plants falls off the table.
Abigail Ross Hopper is president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.