Could a Trade Dispute With China End the U.S. Solar Boom?

first_imgA complex case of tangled loyaltiesThe International Trade Commission (ITC) has already made one statement about the Suniva petition — that, within the meaning of trade law, it is “extraordinarily complicated.” About that, no one disagrees. For starters, Suniva is majority-owned by Shunfeng International Clean Energy, a Chinese company that opposes Suniva’s petition, and SolarWorld Americas is a subsidiary of an insolvent German firm. Yet both are taking a stance against imports into the U.S.How can that be? In Suniva’s case, the petition is being driven by SQN Capital Management, a New York-based asset manager that made $51 million in loans to Suniva and spent another $4 million on legal fees. In a letter to the China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Machinery & Electronic Products, SQN offered to drop the petition if a buyer could be found for Suniva’s manufacturing equipment, which SQN says is worth $55 million. The Chinese declined to make a deal, and the issue became moot when SolarWorld Americas entered the case and the ITC decided to investigate.This isn’t the first time that U.S. solar manufacturers have sought trade sanctions. In 2012, the Obama administration imposed modest tariffs on Chinese imports after finding that the Chinese government provided illegal export subsidies to its manufacturers. Two years later, it extended the tariffs to Taiwan. Those moves were prompted by cases brought by SolarWorld Americas.Nevertheless, solar imports to the U.S. continued to surge — from $5.1 billion in 2012 to $8.3 billion in 2016, according to Suniva — as Chinese companies built factories in Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, which were unaffected by the tariffs. Last year, the U.S. imported $520 million in panels from Thailand, up from almost nothing in 2012, and another $514 million from Vietnam, up from less than $1 million in 2012, according to Suniva. Incentives for U.S. firmsStill, U.S. firms that complain about subsidies run the risk of being called hypocrites. Suniva, for instance, enjoyed state tax incentives for its Michigan plant, and “many other U.S. solar manufacturers have received tax, grant, and loan guarantee incentives,” says analyst Hugh Bromley. SolarCity, a unit of Tesla, is building a $900 million factory in Buffalo, New York, to make solar panels, with major subsidies.Other solar manufacturers headquartered in the U.S., including SunPower and First Solar, have located a majority of their manufacturing offshore and so would be affected by any tariffs. In fact, SunPower has joined with the Solar Electric Industries Association to oppose the tariffs. SunPower, First Solar, and SolarCity all declined to comment on the trade issue.Some analysts believe that the industry will be able to adjust to the tariffs. Setting a floor price for panels will lead developers to choose higher-efficiency, higher-cost panels that will enable other price reductions along the supply chain, says Roberto Rodriguez Labastida, an analyst with Navigant Research. “There will be some shake-ups and adjustments,” he says, but nothing like the meltdown being forecast by some.The ITC will decide in September whether U.S. manufacturers have been injured. Shara Aranoff, a former chair of the commission who is now a corporate lawyer, says the nonpartisan ITC commissioners will be guided by the law and the facts. “It is one of the most independent agencies in the federal government,” she said.If the commission finds harm, the issue moves into the political arena. Already, Daniel Kildee, a Democratic congressman from Michigan, and Rob Woodall, a Republican congressman from Georgia, have called for trade remedies. The solar industry is arguing that tariffs will kill many more jobs than they will save, and that there are better ways to protect U.S. manufacturing.In making any decision, the Trump administration would be free to take anything into account — jobs, the impact of higher solar prices on consumers, and, at least in theory, the environment. Few would expect the environment to be high on the administration’s priority list here. But what will the president do? As with so many issues in Washington these days, that’s anybody’s guess. An Atlanta manufacturer cries foulThe trade investigation began in response to a petition filed by Suniva, a bankrupt manufacturer of solar cells and panels based in suburban Atlanta, with factories in Georgia and Michigan. Suniva, the second largest U.S. solar panel maker by volume, has been joined in the case by SolarWorld Americas, the largest U.S. solar panel manufacturer, which has a factory in Oregon.U.S. solar manufacturers “simply cannot survive” in a market where foreign imports “have unexpectedly exploded and prices have collapsed,” Suniva said in its petition. SolarWorld Americas said it decided to join with Suniva because “massive overproduction” of Chinese solar cells and panels has “led to the near-destruction of remaining solar producers in America.”The domestic solar firms have asked the Trump administration to impose steep tariffs on all imported solar cells, which are the devices inside solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity, and to set a floor price on solar panels containing imports. Those measures would roughly double the cost of imported panels, analysts say.Some industry analysts say higher costs for solar will slow the industry’s growth. According to a report from analyst IHS Markit, demand for U.S. solar photovoltaics could be reduced by 60 percent over the next three years if the trade commission grants Suniva’s petition.Hugh Bromley, an industry analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a note to clients that Suniva’s accusations are “riddled with holes and hypocrisies.” Still, he adds, “Those may not matter if the case makes its way to President Trump’s desk.”As a candidate and as president, Trump has vowed to enforce U.S. trade laws as a way to strengthen the nation’s manufacturing base. Slapping tariffs on imported solar panels would benefit not only domestic solar manufacturers but traditional energy producers, including the coal industry, that compete with solar. RELATED ARTICLES Cheap Chinese solar cells have powered a boom in the U.S. solar industry. They have helped drive down the cost of making electricity from sunlight by about 70% since 2010, leading to double-digit growth rates in rooftop and utility-scale installations, according to the industry. Last year, for the first time, solar added more generating capacity to the electricity grid than any other fuel, including natural gas. That’s welcome news to those who worry about climate change.Now, though, the solar boom may be in jeopardy. The U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency, has begun an investigation that could lead to sweeping trade protections against the imports that would raise the costs of solar power and could bring a halt to solar’s rapid U.S. growth.If the trade commission finds that imports caused serious harm to U.S. solar manufacturers, it will recommend trade remedies, which could potentially include tariffs on all imported solar products. President Donald Trump, a champion of U.S. manufacturing, would get the final word on any action — a prospect that has the solar industry in a tizzy.The prospect of global tariffs “poses an existential threat to the broad solar industry and its 260,000 American jobs,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, the chief executive of the Solar Electric Industries Association, the industry’s largest trade organization. Most solar jobs in the United States are in sales and installation, not manufacturing, but tariffs could drive up the cost of solar and make it less competitive.center_img New Tariffs on Chinese Solar PanelsSolar Thermal Is Really, Really DeadLarge-Scale Solar Power Is Spreading Across the U.S.Solar Beats Utility Power in Many CitiesSolar Jobs Are BoomingGreen Building in the Cheap Energy EraBatteries for Off-Grid Homes This post originally appeared at Yale Environment 360 and is republished here with permission. Marc Gunther writes about foundations, nonprofits and global development on his blog, Nonprofit Chronicles. The goal is global tariffsThat’s why Suniva now wants tariffs imposed globally. “Without global relief, the domestic industry will be playing ‘whack-a-mole’ against [solar cells] and modules from particular countries,” says Matthew McConkey, a lawyer for Suniva, in the petition to the ITC.Trade experts agree that China has subsidized its giant solar manufacturers. Beijing and provincial governments provided free or low-cost loans; artificially cheap raw materials, components, and land; support for research and development; and a demand that was artificially driven by domestic regulation, according to Usha C.V. Haley and George Haley, wife-and-husband authors of a 2013 book, Subsidies to Chinese Industry: State Capitalism, Business Strategy and Trade Policy.“Production in China is still heavily subsidized,” says Usha Haley, a professor of management at West Virginia University. “There is little doubt in my mind that it is going to become a monopoly producer — and then, of course, they will raise prices.”What’s more, a solar industry dominated by a handful of Chinese companies will have little incentive to innovate, argues Stephen Ezell, a vice president at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank. The U.S. industry, which invented solar photovoltaics and still leads the world in solar patents, simply will not have the resources it needs to invest in research.“These industries are fundamentally about generating the next-generation product,” Ezell says. “We’re getting locked into a lower level of technological development.” In the long run, that would make it more difficult for the global solar industry to dislodge its fossil-fuel competitors.last_img read more

Over-Wired Americans Are Richer Than They Realize

first_imgA Comprehensive Guide to a Content Audit Facebook is Becoming Less Personal and More Pro… Tags:#Pause The Dos and Don’ts of Brand Awareness Videos Related Posts center_img brian proffitt Guide to Performing Bulk Email Verification As a technology writer, I hear (and experience) first-world problems every day:“Twitter’s down.”“Gmail’s borked.”“My phone battery died.”Any one of those issues is enough, in our day-to-day lives, to at least bug us, and sometimes they’re enough to completely disrupt our professional or personal productivity. We can’t get things done and we lash out at those we think are responsible. How dare service X fail us and interrupt our work?You know, first-world problems.Perhaps that’s why I have recently come to the conclusion that Americans, as a group, have no perspective.The Lack Of PerspectiveWhen I take the time to step away from this over-wired world a bit, the very first thing I usually think of is just how silly all of this hullaballoo really can be. I mean, really, the $500 radio in my pocket just ran out of power and now I have to wait a whole half-hour to charge it again, and that’s my big problem?Smartphones bear much of the ire I have for first-world problems, if only because they exemplify those problems so well: We build a device that keeps us connected with the rest of the world (which we love/hate) and then freak out when said device is unavailable even for a moment.Smartphones tie into what many people peg as American’s big problem: We’re too damn fixated on time. Events in our lives are timed to the minute, and any deviation from that mental schedule can cause great stress. Being a writer geared to deadlines, I fall into this trap all of the time.Instead of living in the moment and enjoying where we are, we tend to focus on the next thing, the next place, the next job. We don’t appreciate what we have and the time we spend with friends and family, slotted between hockey practice for Junior and the DVRed episodes of Downton Abbey we need to watch.Here’s a real example of how bad not appreciating what we have has gotten. And it involves one of our favorite things: not time, but money.How Good Do You Really Have It?Global Rich List is not a new site, but when my pastor mentioned it during his sermon last week, I thought I’d give it a whirl.The idea behind the site is simple: type in your annual income in pounds, dollars (US or Canadian) or euros and the site will spit back your wealth rank compared with all the people on the planet.I popped in my annual income, and found to my surprise that I am the 24,860,227th richest person in the world.At first glance, that sounds depressing, doesn’t it? But think that through a bit. 24.8 millionth-ish… on a planet with more than seven billion people. That puts me, a guy who fits squarely in the U.S. middle class, within the top 0.41% wealthiest people in the world.It gets a bit worse. I added my wife’s income, and suddenly there are only 3.9 million-with-an-m people in the world making more money than us.Holy crap.Not Pride, Dismay And EmbarassmentBe assured, the emotion I was feeling at this point is not pride. It’s dismay, with quite a bit of embarrassment thrown in. All of the complaining I do about funds being tight and spending too much at the store seems foolish and arrogant when I think that 99.94% of the humans on planet Earth earn less than my family.Pulling back that focus to the U.S. as a whole, and you can see why I think that people in our society need to get over themselves.To give you an idea of just how rich Americans are, in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Obama said that a person with two kids working full time at minimum wage would fall below the poverty line, as defined here in the U.S. Full time at the U.S. $7.50 minimum wage is $15,000 annually.According to Global Rich List, a person earning that salary would be the 726,528,729th richest person in the world, and still be in the top 12.1% of earners on Earth.Sometimes it takes a change in perspective like this to make you re-think your priorities. I’m not going to shed my earthly possessions and live the life of a hermit, but already I have less acquisitiveness about “stuff” than I used to feel.Appreciating what we have, be it things, time or the people around us, is definitely a better way to live than always wanting more. Because when you always want more, you will think you have less.Image courtesy of Shutterstock.last_img read more

Hiding details evokes criticism in J&K

first_imgThe authorities have decided not to publicise the details of candidates contesting in elections to urban local bodies in volatile pockets in the Kashmir valley “due to security reasons,” evoking sharp reactions from political parties.“Lack of transparency will only bring disrepute to the institution of democracy. It seems former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s legacy is being reversed. Mr. Vaypayee, as prime minister, ensured fair elections in J&K and allowed peoples’ representatives to come up. This saw a new hope emerging among people, who started looking up to elections as a credible exercise. In the process, mainstream political parties, too, gained an important space despite Kashmir’s complex situation,” senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Nayeem Akhtar told The Hindu. He described the situation in J&K as “worse than the 1990s.” “It’s getting worse than 1990s, with non-locals being fielded as candidates in many wards. They may have visited the area for the first time on the day of the nominations. The way the elections are held goes against tenets of democracy,” said Mr. Akhtar.All major regional parties, including the PDP and the National Conference, have decided to boycott polls, leaving the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Conference (J&KPC), the Congress and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) as major players in the fray. “The credibility of the poll process has been badly affected. No candidate has filed a nomination in 177 wards. In 215 wards, candidates have been declared [elected] unopposed. It speaks volumes about the power-thirsty BJP imposing [on the] elections. What will be the credibility of these polls, when even finding a candidate to contest has become difficult?” asked Congress vice president and MLC G.N. Monga .Details concealed Contrary to J&K Chief Electoral Officer Shaleen Kabra’s directive to returning officers “to paste details of contesting candidates on notice boards”, scores of wards in south and north Kashmir have decided against it. “Candidates have pleaded with us that their lives will be in danger in case their details are made public. In many wards, we decided against publicising it,” a south Kashmir-based official told The Hindu. In the wake of militant threats, several independent candidates on Thursday held a press conference in Srinagar. They claimed they were “not getting any response from the government over security. The property of two candidates have been attacked by unknown men in the past 24 hours in the Valley with petrol bombs.”However, Additional Director General Police-Law and Order (ADGP) Muneer Ahmad Khan said many contestants have been put up in hired hotels, guarded by heavy contingents of police and paramilitary forces. About 3,000 candidates are in the fray across J&K for elections to 1,145 wards across 79 municipal bodies, starting October 8.last_img read more

BJP demands apology from Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik over BJD flag on martyr’s coffin

first_imgOpposition BJP on Friday demanded an unconditional apology from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik soon after a photograph of martyr Ajit Kumar Sahoo’s coffin, draped in a BJD flag, went viral on social media. The photograph was taken on Thursday and it was uploaded on Friday. Ajit Kumar Sahoo, a jawan of the 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) hailed from Dhenkanal district in Odisha. He was critically injured in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in Jammu & Kashmir’s Pulwama district on June 17 and later succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment at the hospital on June 18. “Let BJD president Naveen Patnaik tender unconditional apology for hurting sentiments of the people and the martyr’s family,” BJP Ex-Servicemen Cell State President Colonel B.K. Bastia told reporters here. “It is unfortunate that the martyr’s coffin was draped with a BJD flag instead of the Tricolour,” Mr. Bastia said. BJP national vice -president and former MP Baijayant Panda also demanded an apology from the ruling Party. “Very unfortunate, politicising the death of an Indian soldier by the ruling party in Odisha draping his coffin with their party flag instead of the Tricolour. ….,” Mr. Panda tweeted. “The BJD people offered floral tribute to the martyr near Khuntuni on the way to our village in Dhenkanal district. They covered the coffin with the BJD flag. The BJD flag was removed later. My brother was not working for any political party,” the martyr’s brother, Parameswar Sahoo, said. Odisha governor Ganeshi Lal and many other persons had paid tribute to the martyr as soon the body reached the Biju Patnaik International Airport late night on Wednesday. The coffin was then taken to Dhenkanal Mini Stadium and later to his native village Badasuanla where his mortal remains was consigned to flames. BJD spokesperson Sasmit Patra has, however, described the incident as unfortunate and condemnable. “Our Party has a lot of respect for the martyrs and we condemn the incident. Stringent action will be taken against those who are involved in this episode,” he said.last_img read more