Commerce Dept slaps tariffs on Chinese solar

The U.S. Department of Commerce yesterday announced that it would order tariffs of 31% and more on solar photovoltaic (PV) panels imported from China after a preliminary finding that Chinese companies were selling panels in the United States at prices below fair market value -- i.e., dumping. If this preliminary finding is affirmed by U.S. trade officials this fall, will have a significant effect on the cost of solar power development and possibly on the availability of panels in the U.S. market.

"More than 60 Chinese firms, including Suntech Power Holdings Co., the world's largest solar panel maker, and Trina Solar Ltd., face a 31% duty on their exports to the U.S., retroactive to shipments made in February. All other Chinese exporters of solar cells will be hit with a tariff of 250%," said a story in the Los Angeles Times.

The tariffs come on top of penalties of less than 5% ordered by the Commerce Department in March after finding the manufacturers were illegally subsidized by the government of China. That ruling was seen as moderate by both U.S. manufacturers of solar panels, who had sought the Commerce Department's intervention, and U.S. solar developers who buy panels. This ruling? Not so moderate.

Yesterday the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) warned that the steep tariffs could spark a trade war between the U.S. and China, and that the increased cost of solar panels "will ultimately come right out of the paychecks of American solar workers."

The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), a group of U.S. PV panel-makers and supporters, called the ruling "a very positive first step."

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