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Sophomoric Solar World was in the news twice during this two week period leading to Good Friday. As you obviously know, Solar World Americas was part of the effort that convinced President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on imported panels. Now, Solar World Industries GmbH is seeking an exemption to those duties. Is your head spinning? Does this remind you of “Days of Our Lives” (the solar version)? Well, it should since Solar World GmbH, on March 22nd made an appeal to the Office of U.S. Trade Representative claiming that their “high-quality modules” cost more than the cheap Asian products that prompted the trade dispute. And to add insult to injury, SW GmbH, just announced bankruptcy again! With this, the company is reacting, among other things, on further decreased market prices and European Commission’s intention to terminate measures against dumped solar imports from China,” the German company said. Not sure what to make of this, but it seems as though both divisions attempted to “regulatory suicide bomb” the US market knowing that like the financial health, production and operational efficiencies and technology road map to truly be a viable competitor in the global market. Only time will determine whether their “bomb” was lethal or merely just a short-term industry headache. As I see it, it's completely the later.
Our industry, is collateral damage to the political narrative of the White House. We're equal opportunity employers: -we think all American jobs are good jobs and that we should grow all jobs and not attempt to protect a few that are questionable to begin with at the expense of many more verifiable jobs. On the tariff itself, it is ironic that those who claimed the need for it will not be protected. Suniva needs cash to support a failed business plan. Imported modules that are levied a 30% tariff will not solve that. Suniva will fade away without creating any manufacturing jobs. Yes, some Chinese companies will setup fully automated manufacturing here in the USA that will eliminate smaller module players like Suniva who do not have the scale or know how like the big Tier 1's. Of the range of outcomes, the tariff proposed at 30% is a more workable outcome. The biggest win is uncertainty is removed and we can go back to business.
My team will be monitoring prices closely with our module partners and will let you know as we hear more. Until we hear from those partners, we’re able to honor current pricing - so let’s get whatever you need fulfilled now. Call or email anytime. Yousri
Watch Jean Runyon, Chief Editor of Renewable Energy World and Paula Mints, Chief Market Research Analyst with SPV Market Research discuss the hot topics everyone in our industry has been discussing. I think you'll find this quick 11 minute discussion valuable in assessing the pending trade case and energy storage forecasts for the US market. http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2018/01/3-3-on-solar-pv-predictions-predictions-predictions.html
This report obtaining by Politico is the distant clamp of thunder before the storm. Politico obtained a document from an unnamed source at the White House signaling the defense of tariffs and laying the groundwork for punitive tariffs on Chinese-made solar power equipment — a step that would promote the president’s “America First” trade agenda while sharply increasing the costs of solar power in the U.S.. The paper argues that China has used our ITC and other incentives to unfairly profit from our adoption of solar power and use our ramp up to establish a toe hold on infrastructure initiatives in the developing world. It also blasts China for protecting its own supply chain which includes imposing its own tariffs on polycrystalline. This doesn't look good for our industry and it's easy to procrastinate on the need to reach out to your elected official to voice your opinion on these matters, however, this is the 11th hour before huge changes occur, so please be informed and active in your local or regional SEIA chapter.
The Section 201 now has a later deadline. On Tuesday, the USTR requested a supplementary report from the USITC. This extends the deadline for a Presidential decision to 1/26/18 vs. prior of 1/12/18. The USITC has 30 days to deliver the report, and the President has 30 days after delivery to take action. That said, the President could issue an order before the deadline.
The Senate could introduce a new change for solar/wind tax equity investors. Yesterday, the Senate recorded a party-line 52-48 vote to begin a 20-hour debate period after which the Senate will begin voting for final amendments. Notably, although the Senate bill preserves solar and wind tax credit and commence-construction rules, it also includes a "base erosion tax" that ignores tax credits below a minimum level for some taxpayers, particularly investors that make deductible payments to foreign affiliates. We've heard that this could reduce some investor demand for tax equity by as much as 50%. That said, we understand that an amendment supportive of renewable tax credits has potential and could avert this downside scenario for the solar & wind sectors. If the Senate bill passes, the House and Senate will start reconciling the separate bills.
If you’re still digesting the most recent recommendation by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Section 201 module tariffs, this article is a good summary of what they recommended to the President a couple weeks ago. The gist is that the ITC is recommending a 5 year tariff on both cells and modules starting at 30% in year one above 1 GW and declining each year. It was less severe than anticipated, but it’s still only a recommendation. I (unfortunately) don’t have a crystal ball on what Trump will do, but one possible scenario is the tariff he sets could be higher which could have an upward effect on prices early next year. The President has to issue his ruling by Jan 12. If it’s the same as the ITC recommendation, it goes into effect Jan 27; if different then it will go into effect in April 2018. Call anytime if you’d like to chat about it.
Just when everyone is breathing a sigh of relief that pricing uncertainty is behind us, I still believe that everything is still very uncertain until the International Trade Representative holds his own hearing on December 6th
and makes his recommendation to Trump. This person is a Cabinet level official and his recommendations will probably
carry more weight with Trump than the ITC recommendations. My own view is that there will be a new trade tariff on
imports from most countries but some may be excluded under existing Free Trade Agreements. And the price impact
will be in the 10 cent range but from a cost of $0.38 for the imported modules which will produce an import price
post tariff of the existing $0.48/watt. Others are predicting post-tariff pricing of perhaps $0.52/watt. But this is really
still a guess until Trump makes his final decision. We should know that in mid-January with an effective date for the
new tariff of the end of January or early February.
This article is further evidence that mono high efficiency panels will prevail in the future. The confluence of automation and AI has yielded fully automated factories to be the standard (listen up Solar World), so new jobs will not be derived from solar manufacturing. Go to https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/06/26/neo-solar-power-inaugurates-200-mwp-taiwan-solar-module-fab/. Even amongst industry insiders, Neo Solar Power or NSP is virtually unknown. Aten Solar is one of the few if any distributors that carries their poly line of 60 and 72 modules.
UL certified the product last week, which should allow Elon Musk to keep his promise to roll the product out this summer. Receiving UL’s Class A certifications should allow Solar Roof installations to face fewer objections from local permitting bodies in the United States, allowing easier deployment in more locations. Tesla started taking orders for the Solar Roofs earlier this month. Thanks to his cagey phrasing, non-solar specific analysts have argued that the Solar Roof will cost less than a traditional roof installation. A close reading of Musk’s promise, however, reveals that it will be less expensive over time because of the savings homeowners will have on electricity. Musk also claims to have the best warranty in the industry, saying that the Solar Roof will last “the lifetime of your house, or infinity, whichever comes first.” The Solar Roof system includes a Tesla Powerwall battery, which costs around $5,000. The first Solar Roof tiles will be gray smooth glass and black textured glass and installations will be done on a first-ordered, first-installed basis in the United States. According to Tesla, customers will have a worry-free installation process, with the company removing the existing roof and then designing, permitting, installing and maintaining the Solar Roof. Based on this snippet from a PV Magazine article, I would be interested to hear from you on whether this will take a large slice of the residential fixed module market.