Many Sides to the Solar Panel Debate

In response to accusations of Chinese companies dumping solar panels in US markets, the US is investigating the possibility of illegal subsidies to the Chinese solar industry. From Reuters:

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday it would investigate whether Chinese companies sell solar panels in the United States at unfair discounts and receive illegal government subsidies.

The trade dispute, one of several sensitive economic and trade issues between the United States and China, could lead to steep duties on imports of Chinese panels and help struggling domestic manufacturers.

The action is opposed by companies in the U.S. solar industry that count on importing cheap panels to boost solar power generation.

However, not everyone in the green energy sector of the USA is against the influx of cheap Chinese panels. From USA Today:

Solar manufacturers that filed a petition Oct. 19 against China’s subsidies said the country is illegally dumping its silicon solar products in the U.S. market to bankrupt competitors. Other solar companies argued the resulting lower panel prices benefit all consumers.

[...]U.S. energy officials say China spent more than $30 billion in 2010 alone in subsidies for its solar industry. Last week, when asked about the trade petition, President Obama said China has “questionable competitive practices” on clean energy and his administration has fought “these kinds of dumping activities.”

Other solar companies say China’s investment has benefited U.S. customers because panel prices are now 30% lower than in January 2010. On Tuesday, to counter the trade petition, they launched the rival Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy or (CASE.) Members include China-based SunTech as well as Recurrent Energy, Solar City, SolarFirst, Inc., Sungevity, SunRun and Westinghouse Solar.

According to Xinhua, the American rhetoric is not only hypocritically anti-green, but also simply another excuse to China bash as election time approaches in the US:

The United States wants to push for a free trade deal for environmental goods at the upcoming APEC meeting, but erecting a barrier against China’s solar products will retard its mission and impair global green efforts.

[...]It has become a pitiful reality that whenever elections near in some countries, some politicians resort to China bashing with no sound reasons to win votes.

If the United States wants to persuade other countries to lower tariffs on green products at the APEC meeting, it needs to set a good example.

It is time for the U.S. to take a rational approach to avoid any artificial blows to the solar industry still in infancy which could impede the global green drive.

November 9, 2011 10:35 PM
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