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US Commerce Department finalises Chinese solar tariffs

The US Department of Commerce on Tuesday finalised stiff tariffs on PV modules coming from China, even if the cells are made elsewhere, in a decision immediately praised by SolarWorld Industries America and slammed by the downstream US solar sector.

The decision locks in many of the preliminary duties put in place this summer – and in some cases even raises them.

The rates

Following the pattern laid out in this summer's preliminary ruling, the DOC imposed the lightest anti-dumping (AD) duties on Trina – the world’s largest supplier of PV modules in 2014 – at 27%.

Jinko and Renesola were hit with AD rates of 78%, while several dozen other Chinese suppliers, including last year’s leading supplier Yingli, face an AD rate of 52%.

The rest of China’s module makers – the companies that did not “fully” cooperate with the investigation – face an AD rate of 165%.

While Trina received the lowest AD rate, it received the highest anti-subsidy (AS) rate – at 50%.

In contrast, Wuxi Suntech received the lightest AS tariff, at 28%, while all other Chinese suppliers will face an AS rate of 39%.

While for many Chinese firms the final duties are higher than the preliminary rates, they are lower for Taiwanese cell makers. Still, most Taiwanese cell makers will face AD tariffs of nearly 20%.

Motech received a lighter 11% tariff, while rival Gintech was hit with a heavier 28% rate.

Industry reaction

SolarWorld Industries America – a division of the German-Qatari PV manufacturer, and the locomotive behind both the US and EU solar trade cases against China – says the decision has “paved the way for the expansion of solar manufacturing” in the US.

Claiming that the final duties have arrived “just in time”, SolarWorld US president Mukesh Dulani says the tariffs “set the stage for companies to create new jobs and build or expand factories on US soil”.

In October SolarWorld unveiled plans to boost its cell capacity from 335MW to 435MW and its module capacity from 380MW to 530MW at its factory in Oregon, currently the largest PV factory in the Western Hemisphere.

On the other side of the debate, Jigar Shah, founder of SunEdison, and president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, which represents many downstream solar companies, says the ruling will “make it more difficult for solar technology to compete against fossil fuels”.

Shah points out that Chinese modules will face duties even if the cells used were made in the US.

ITC

The issue is not yet completely settled, however.

In order for the duties to be locked in place, yet another agency, the International Trade Commission, must conclude that the practices of the Chinese suppliers have caused material harm to US manufacturers.

The ITC will take a vote on 20 January. That is the final step in the process.

Shah suggests there is at least hope that the tariffs can be avoided or mitigated, saying his organisation “look[s] forward to continued progress in the weeks ahead”.

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