The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) launched, with the support of 25 organizations, including manufacturers, project developers and others. The organization was formed to oppose trade petitions filed in the U.S. and internationally by the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), a group of solar industry players led by SolarWorld Industries America. Members from both organizations spoke Nov. 8 before the International Trade Commission (ITC).
SolarWorld and CASM argue that China’s silicon photovoltaic manufacturers are using illegal dumping and anticompetitive subsidies to drop their module prices below that of solar manufacturers in the U.S. That group announced, on Oct. 19, that it filed petitions with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the ITC.
CASM contends that the lowered prices that Chinese manufacturers are offering their PV cells for are undercutting their domestic competitors.
CASE—which includes support from MEMC/SunEdison, SolarCity, SunRun, Canadian Solar (a Canadian company that manufactures mostly in China), Westinghouse Solar (which supplies PV cells from China), PetersenDean, Sungevity, Recurrent Energy and others—responds that for solar to truly be successful in the U.S., prices of modules need to continue to come down as incentives continue to decline.
There are five steps in the process of turning silicon into an installed module, said Kevin Lapidus, Senior VP & General Counsel for SunEdison during a conference call announcing the new organization.
“In order to succeed, that is to reach grid parity, each step in the reduction chain must reduce its cost,” said Lapidus. “Only if this is achieved across the entire solar industry, can we be a successful solar industry in the United States.”
SunEdison and MEMC are the second largest polysilicon and solar wafer manufacturers in the U.S., behind SolarWorld. However, the company also is a solar integrator and has done projects around the world.
SolarWorld ignored significant parts of the solar industry by focusing its petition just on solar cells, according to Lapidus.
“Which are less than 25 percent of the overall cost of a solar module,” he said. “The solar industry is experiencing price reduction across all of the key stages of solar module manufacturing and not just cells.”
SolarWorld’s petition also excluded thin-film photovoltaics, like those made by First Solar and Abound Solar. While SolarWorld’s petition contended that Chinese-backed PV manufacturers are setting module prices, Lapidus said it was thin-film that was increasingly setting the low prices.
There are more than 2.6 gigawatts of solar projects planned in the U.S. in 2012, according to Lapidus. That anticipated growth was based on certain anticipated price declines.
“An price shock to modules through the imposition of a tariff in this case will render many of these power plants not viable,” he said.
The imposition of tariffs could have a negative impact on the 30,000 new jobs that would be needed to meet the anticipated growth in solar.