Commerce Dept. Moves Forward With Auxin Solar Petition

Commerce Dept. Moves Forward With Auxin Solar Petition

The US Department of Commerce has announced that it would launch an investigation into solar panel supply chains that could seriously hurt the nation’s domestic solar industry. California-based manufacturer Auxin Solar requested this investigation after accusing Chinese manufacturers of shifting production to Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia to avoid US tariffs on Chinese solar panels.

Other American solar companies opposed Auxin’s petition argue that its result would stunt the deployment of solar and cause huge layoffs, perhaps even guaranteeing that the Biden Administration develops less solar than the Trump Administration. Opening an investigation could present a considerable problem for America’s clean energy transition. The industry argues that it could risk retroactive tariffs of up to 240% in the solar sector, thousands of layoffs, and put up to 80% of planned US solar projects at risk.

"Overnight, the Commerce Department ... drove a stake through the heart of planned solar projects and choked off up to 80% of the solar panel supply to the US,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association and former White House energy adviser under Obama, according to ABC News.

Why This Matters

President Biden has set a goal to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% below 2005 levels by 2030. To reach that, the Administration aims to clean up the US grid, phase out fossil fuels by 2035, and raise solar energy supply from 3% to 40% of the nation’s electricity needs. To reach a zero-emissions future, solar supply needs to increase as quickly as possible, and this investigation could set this transition back considerably.

CNBC: US could generate 40% of its electricity using solar by 2035, September 24, 2021.

"A Chilling Effect On The Solar Industry"

'This misstep will have a devastating impact on the US solar market at a time when solar prices are climbing, and project delays and cancellations are adding up. The solar industry is still reeling from a similar tariff petition that surfaced last year,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Adding, "The mere threat of tariffs altered the industry’s growth trajectory … Taking up this case will have a chilling effect on the solar industry.”

According to the SEIA, the petition would result in the loss of 14 gigawatts of new solar -- more than half of what was installed in the US last year. The petition had been dismissed initially as being "disingenuous,” but it seems to have gained traction again.

SEIA Vice President of Market Strategy John Smirnow expressed concern that Auxin’s move could be detrimental to the American solar industry, including domestic manufacturers, and finds the petition to be "a blatant attempt by Auxin to unfairly gain a competitive advantage.”

WUSA9: 15 solar sites approved in Virginia, including in Dulles Airport proposal, March 16, 2022.

News On 6: Biden Administration Moves To Expand Solar Power On US Land, December 23, 2021.

WW0: Heather Zichal and Amanda Little WW0 Facebook Live conversation broadcast, February 18, 2021.