A mix of panic buying and cancelled projects has swept over the U.S. solar installation industry in response to a trade complaint by Georgia-based panel manufacturer Suniva, according to a report this morning from Reuters.
[S]igns of a chill are already visible as the industry waits to see how President Donald Trump responds to a recent trade complaint lodged by a Georgia manufacturer named Suniva. The company has asked the administration effectively to double the price of imported solar panels so that U.S. factories can compete.
On one hand, installers and project owners are accelerating their purchase of photovoltaic panels and some are stockpiling supplies. That’s boosted spot prices by as much as 20 percent. On the other hand:
Skittish U.S. energy customers are putting some solar projects on hold. Manufacturers are eyeing other markets to develop. And some investors are running for cover. Funding for large U.S. solar deals fell to $1.4 billion in the second quarter, down from $3.2 billion in the first quarter and $1.7 billion a year earlier, primarily due to concerns about the trade case, according to research firm Mercom Capital Group.
Suniva was founded by Ahjeet Rohatgi, a Georgia Tech professor and the director of the school’s Center for Excellence in Photovoltaics. Ironically, it’s now owned by a Hong Kong holding company. The U.S. International Trade Commission has scheduled a Sept. 22 vote on the company’s unfair trade claim and to forward its recommendations to President Trump by Nov. 13.
At that point, the president would have the option of accepting the ITC recommendations or fashioning his own separate decision. Solar industry advocates say additional tariffs could cost 88,000 American jobs, mainly among installers. Trump’s rhetoric against Chinese trade and his lack of enthusiasm for clean energy have raised anxieties that he’ll rule in favor of tariffs.