Groups Opposed to US Solar Manufacturing: Whose Side Are They On?

11 Oct 2017

The same Chinese companies that decimated the American solar cell manufacturing industry, along with companies that manufacture cells in other countries, are now key players in a massive lobbying campaign with millions in advertising to stop a trade remedy. The spending follows a unanimous 4-0 decision by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC), which found that the influx of cheap foreign products has significantly injured American solar manufacturers, with almost 30 going out of business over the last 5 years. China, for example, propped up its own solar manufacturers for years with billions in support and cheap loans, allowing them to sell their products below what it cost to make them, and moved production to other countries to evade past U.S. sanctions.

Now, as the ITC prepares to make recommendations to President Donald Trump on a remedy called for by Suniva and SolarWorld, two American manufacturers who filed the trade complaint, a constellation of interest groups have organized to put a nail in the coffin of what’s left of the U.S. industry. But the massive lobbying campaigns and millions in ads are being funded by groups that either include the same Chinese companies the ITC unanimously found had injured American competitors, or who largely manufacture their products overseas.

Matt Card, executive vice president of Suniva, today issued the following statement: “It is disappointing to watch these special interests try to manipulate the President, as they oppose Suniva’s and SolarWorld’s call for tariffs and restrictions on imports, and they include companies whose subsidized, foreign production helped decimate America’s solar manufacturers.”

  • The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) asserts that it is a “national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry.” If this is the case, then why does its membership include Chinese solar manufacturers?
  • In fact, a Chinese executive sits on SEIA’s board of directors.  Is this why SEIA stayed silent as almost 30 U.S. solar manufacturing companies went bankrupt over the last 5 years?  
  • Another group, the US Made Solar Coalition, claims to be “a coalition of domestic solar manufacturers who support the record growth of the U.S. solar market.” But, the coalition includes companies like
  • Nextracker, which boasts of being able to manufacture its products outside the United States in 30 different countries, including China, through its parent company Flextronics.

The warning signs were there in 2009 when The New York Times reported that, “Chinese solar companies are encouraging their United States executives to join industry trade groups to tamp down anti-Chinese sentiment before it takes root.” One of the companies “encouraged executives at its United States operations to take the top posts at the two main American industry groups, partly to make sure that these groups do not rally opposition to imports…”

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