First Solar warns on India duties

The imposition of anti-dumping duties would make serving the burgeoning Indian PV market “very difficult”, warns First Solar, following reports today that Delhi has concluded that suppliers from the US, China, Taiwan and Malaysia have dumped solar products into India.

It was reported earlier today that India’s Commerce Ministry has internally concluded that more than 20 PV companies from the US, China, Taiwan and Malaysia have caused “material injury” to their Indian competitors by dumping product into the Indian market.

The companies deny the allegations, with First Solar spokesman Stephen Krum saying that India's preliminary conclusions are "inconsistent with our assessment of the facts according to WTO guidelines”.

“We disagree that we have dumped imports into the Indian market,” Krum tells Recharge. “We are assessing our options, and will pursue legal and other measures as necessary.”

Delhi has made no public announcement on the dumping issue as yet, and its decision will be controversial either way.

Even within government, the issue is contentious, with the Ministry for New and Renewable Energy understood to be opposed to anti-dumping tariffs.

First asked to investigate the dumping allegations in late 2012 by struggling local PV manufacturers, India’s Commerce Ministry has until 22 May to finalise its decision.

Earlier this month, Indian manufacturers such as Moser Baer, Indosolar, Jupiter Solar and Websol, ratcheted up their rhetoric, demanding anti-dumping duties of 30-35% in the specific case of US companies.

The Commerce Ministry’s decision is critically important to the Indian PV market, as anti-dumping duties would affect all PV projects in India – including statewide projects outside the scope of India’s National Solar Mission (NSM), which already includes local-content requirements.

Industry sources say that if punitive duties are imposed on foreign modules, many projects already underway in India will simply be allowed to wither on the vine.

The US has already brought complaints against India in the WTO for the local-content requirements baked into the NSM.

First Solar has emerged as one of the biggest module suppliers in India, thanks in part to a loophole that saw thin-film modules exempt from local-content requirements in early stages of India’s NSM – although those requirements have since been broadened to include thin-film.

First Solar has cooperated fully with the government’s investigation, Krum says.

"The preliminary decision by the Indian authorities, if upheld, would make serving the Indian market very difficult and will impose a high cost on Indian developers and consumers,” he adds.

First Solar derived less than 1% of its net sales in India last year.

The anti-dumping issue has riven India’s fast-growing PV sector, which has attracted development dollars from a long list of global renewables heavyweights ranging from France’s EDF to GE Energy Financial Services.

India’s PV manufacturers argue that a flood of low-cost foreign kit has effectively left them sidelined in what represents a huge economic opportunity for the country in the coming decades. Both the US and the EU have separately found that Chinese suppliers dumped products in their markets.

But project developers in India, including many that are based locally, counter that cost-competitive modules from countries like the US and China are fundamental to getting the country’s solar ambitions off the ground.

India installed about 900MW of PV last year, despite delays to many key programmes.

Earlier this month, US-based developer SunEdison was reported to have walked away from a 20MW project in India, claiming the country’s domestic content requirements rendered the project uneconomic because not enough high-quality modules could be sourced in time locally.