USITC Solar Update Released

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The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) released its second midterm report on its monitoring of developments within the industry producing crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) products since the President’s imposition of a safeguard measure on imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells.

The report, Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Cells, Whether or Not Partially or Fully Assembled into Other Products: Monitoring Developments in the Domestic Industry, Inv. No. 201-TA-075, is available to the public via the USITC website (www.usitc.gov).

The measure took effect on February 7, 2018. The President imposed the measure after receiving a USITC determination (under section 202 of the Trade Act of 1974) that crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, whether or not partially or fully assembled into other products, were being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry.

The measure was in the form of (a) a tariff-rate quota on imports of CSPV cells not partially or fully assembled into other products and (b) additional duties on imports of CSPV modules that were phased down over a period of four years. 

On February 4, 2022, the President extended the measure by an additional four years after the USITC determined that action under section 203 of the Trade Act with respect to imports of CSPV products continued to be necessary to prevent or remedy serious injury and that there was evidence that the domestic industry was making a positive adjustment to import competition. See Proclamation 10339.

The U.S. International Trade Commission is mandated to monitor and report on developments within the domestic industry producing crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules (CSPV products) following the extension of safeguard measures by the President on February 4, 2022.  These measures are set to last until February 6, 2026.

Since the extension, several significant developments have transpired:

  1. Announcements of plans for domestic CSPV cell production have emerged.
  2. Imports of CSPV cells and modules increased in the first half of 2023 compared to 2022.
  3. There has been a shift towards bifacial CSPV cells and modules.
  4. Prices for CSPV products have risen.
  5. Employment within the U.S. CSPV industry has fluctuated, with a recent increase.
  6. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has driven investments in domestic CSPV cell and module production.
  7. An anti-circumvention inquiry by the Department of Commerce led to a Presidential moratorium on antidumping and countervailing duty tariffs on CSPV products from specific Southeast Asian countries.

The report also details modifications to the safeguard measures, including a temporary revocation of an exclusion for bifacial modules and changes in duty rates. 

Despite challenges, apparent U.S. consumption of CSPV cells and modules increased overall. Imports of CSPV products rose, with a shift to bifacial products. Developments in the domestic industry include plans for CSPV cell production and investments in CSPV module manufacturing.

The safeguard measure has resulted in positive adjustments within the industry. However, concerns exist regarding its impact on CSPV module producers, the exclusion of bifacial modules, and the sufficiency of the CSPV cell quota.

Timothy Brightbill, partner at Wiley Rein and trade counsel to the American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing, provided a statement to Solar Power World after the midterm report was filed:

“The ITC’s report makes clear that domestic solar manufacturing is still suffering injury due to imports of solar cells and modules. According to the report, the industry as a whole reported operating and net losses throughout the period of review, which accelerated in 2023 as imports doubled from $7 billion to more than $14 billion of cells and modules,” he said.

"According to most reports, prices are down 50% or more, and imports are at least double current demand, leading to stockpiling of solar panels in warehouses, where they will continue to depress the market,” Brightbill said.