Earlier this week, the US Commerce Department announced that companies importing solar panels from China will have to pay enormous duties. This decision puts an end to what has felt like an ever-lasting dispute led by US solar panel manufacturers, who claim that the Chinese solar industry has been receiving unfair governmental subsidies. The new tariffs that range between 18.6 and 35.2% are already imposed and are being collected, although the final decision is not expected to be made later on this year.
The trade war began some two years ago, when the Chinese government gave subsidies to solar panels manufacturers, bringing down the price dramatically. This saturated the world solar market, threatened all major solar panel producers in Europe and the US, and drove the European Commission and US governmental officials to initiate action against it. In 2012, EU managed to negotiate a trade off, in order to protect the major German manufacturers, although the issue is not yet resolved entirely. The U.S. also tried to impose duties on imported panels that were made from Chinese solar cells, but these new regulations turned out to be quite easy to avoid, as Chinese companies began production in Taiwan.
Now, based on the argument that the Chinese subsidies are unfair, and that these create noncompetitive market in the US, the government has taken the decision to impose tariffs on Chinese panels made of specific components by certain manufacturers.
The news about the duties was welcomed by US solar panel makers, of course. It is clearly a very strategic and economically sound decision, which protects the US producers. Unfortunately, this also means that the price of solar is not going to drop any time soon.
It is quite interesting to see that although the big guys are convincingly pretending to care about the environment, showing that they do everything possible to cut down emissions and pollution, and giving all these inspirational speeches, suddenly it turns out the “green” guys are not so “green” after all. It is clear that climate change could be slowed down if renewable energy sources are brought forward, and this could only be encouraged if their price drops down. It seems, however, that our health and existence are less important than the profit.
Image (C) SunTech