Suniva case watch: SEIA sends out four ways you can help this week

ITC solar trade petition

The Suniva trade petition really has put the solar industry on hold. Every person we talked to at Intersolar in July seemed in good spirits, but then couched all of their statements with “but I guess we’ll see how this Suniva thing goes.”

There is no new news on that front, but here’s a reminder of where we are at.

  • Pre-hearing brief is due to the International Trade Commission on Tuesday, August 8
  • Hearing on injury is scheduled for August 15.
  • A decision on injury will be made by Sept. 22 at the latest.
  • If injury is found, a remedy will be recommended by Nov. 13.
  • President Trump (gulp) has until Jan. 12, 2018, to decide whatever crazy thing he likes as the appropriate remedy.

The Solar Energy Industries Association has been out in front of this since the beginning and is in the process of finalizing its brief and ensuring that its witnesses for the August 15 hearing are ready to testify.

SEIA CEO Abigail Hopper sent these four requests to industry constituents this week

1. Take advantage of Congressional summer break (House) to connect with members of Congress in person in district.

2. Take to social media. Change your social media profile to this campaign picture, and hashtag all your posts with #SaveSolarJobs.

3. Contacting your Senators and U.S. Representatives and asking them to sign on to a letter to the ITC is always welcomed.

4.  SEIA is organizing a bus-in to gather as many solar workers in the room as it can to demonstrate a show of force and support from the solar industry in our opposition to the trade case. Fill out this form if you plan on attending.

GTM Research predicts solar market doomsday scenario if Suniva’s proposal is approved

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar industry would lose 88,000 jobs if Suniva’s trade protections are imposed

solar jobs

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar industry, is estimating that the American workforce would lose 88,000 jobs, about one-third of the current U.S. solar workforce, if Suniva gets the trade protections proposed in its petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

This spring, the Georgia-based company asked the ITC to place a tariff on imported solar cells and set a price floor for virtually all imported panels,arguing that it cannot compete with foreign rivals. Suniva, which is majority-owned by a Chinese firm, filed the petition after declaring bankruptcy in April.

Among the states standing to lose the most jobs include California with an expected job loss of 15,800, another 7,000 jobs would be lost in South Carolina, and 6,300 in Texas, according to preliminary estimates by SEIA.

Despite Suniva’s claims that its move is meant to protect domestic manufacturing, SEIA found that U.S. solar manufacturing jobs will actually decline if the petition is granted.

“These new estimates show the potential damage to the solar industry as a result of this petition,” said SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper. “Rather than help the industry, the action would kill many thousands of American jobs and put a stop to billions of dollars in private investment.”

SEIA explains plan to lead fight against Suniva petition, remedies for the future

“Our estimates show that even in the states where Suniva and its lone supporter, SolarWorld, have operations, if the petition succeeds, there would be many times more jobs lost than expected gains for two struggling companies,” Hopper said.

The case comes after a record-breaking year of solar energy growth in 2016 when industry jobs grew by 25 percent year-over-year and electricity generating capacity nearly doubled.

SEIA forecasts that solar jobs would be lost in all segments of the market. The utility-scale market, which has paced the industry’s growth for years, would see jobs shrink by 60 percent, while residential and commercial employment would fall by 44 percent and 46 percent, respectively, SEIA said.

“Suniva’s trade petition has the potential to negatively impact more than a thousand hardworking Swinerton installers throughout the United States, with emerging utility-scale markets taking the hardest hit,” said George Hershman, senior vice president and general manager of Swinerton Renewable Energy. “Should the petition be approved, those markets would no longer be cost-competitive, killing a growing economy and a real opportunity for job creation.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Top 4 takeaways from Q1 2017 Solar Market Insight Report

Nevada solar utility

Following rapid growth across the industry in 2016, the United States solar market added 2,044 megawatts of new capacity in the first quarter of 2017, according to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) latest U.S. Solar Market Insight Report. Q1 was the sixth straight quarter in which more than two gigawatts of solar photovoltaics (PV) and more than one gigawatt of utility-scale PV was installed.

The residential and non-residential PV markets are both expected to experience year-over-year growth, even as the quarterly numbers saw a drop from last year’s record-setting pace, the report said.

“The solar market clearly remains on a strong upward trajectory,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar is delivering more clean energy, adding jobs 17 times faster than the U.S. economy and creating tens of billions of dollars in investment. With its cost-competitiveness, we know solar will continue to play a growing role in America’s energy portfolio.”

Here’s what to know beneath those big numbers.

1. Utility-scale growth, price declines continue

As installations grow, prices continue to fall to new lows, with utility-scale system prices dropping below the $1 per watt barrier for the first time.

The utility-scale segment continues to drive the market, representing more than half of all PV installed during the quarter. Much of the capacity comes from projects that were originally slated for completion in 2016, but ended up being pushed back due to the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit. And this entire year is expected to benefit from those “spill-over” projects.

“Utility solar is on the cusp of another boom in procurement,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of U.S. solar. “The majority of utility solicitations are focused on maximizing the number of projects that can come online with a 30 percent federal Investment Tax Credit in 2019, or later by leveraging commence construction rules.”

2. Declines in California means declines overall

More than a half-gigawatt of residential PV was installed in the quarter, down 17 percent from the first quarter of last year. Part of the slowdown can be attributed to national installers pulling back operations in unprofitable geographies and customer acquisition challenges in more mature residential state markets like California.

According to the report, residential PV installations in California will fall year-over-year for the first time this decade. Despite this, California remains the largest state market for residential solar installations.

3. Community solar is saving the non-residential segment

The non-residential solar market—which includes commercial, industrial and community solar installations—grew 29 percent year-over-year, but was down 39 percent from a record high fourth quarter 2016.

The report highlighted Minnesota’s growing community solar market. The state nearly doubled its cumulative community solar deployment in Q1.

Several other states not as well known for their solar markets saw particularly large jumps in installations this quarter, including Idaho and Indiana. Meanwhile, emerging state markets such as Utah, Texas and South Carolina continued their growth.

Read more about that Minnesota community solar boom in our Special Report:

Special Report: How to Make Money in the Midwest

4. None of this matters until the trade dispute is settled

GTM Research forecasts that 12.6 gigawatts will come online in 2017, 10 percent less than 2016’s boom. Total installed U.S. solar PV capacity is expected to nearly triple over the next five years, and by 2022, more than 18 gigawatts of solar PV capacity will be installed annually.

However, downside risk looms over the long-term outlook for U.S. solar, due to a new trade dispute initiated by Suniva.

According to the report, if Suniva’s petition for a minimum silicon PV module price of 78 cents per watt is successful, it could raise system costs between 13 and 35 percent, depending on segment. While it remains unclear how the International Trade Commission will ultimately rule on this petition by Suniva, the approval of the petition as initially filed would result in substantial downside revisions to the GTM Research forecast across all three segments.

 

— Solar Builder magazine

International Trade Commission to take up Suniva case

ITC suniva petition

The first phase in this fairly quick trade protectionist 201 petition process initiated by Suniva is complete — the International Trade Commission has decided to take the case and will be considering it over the next four months. If it decides there was injury, it has two months to suggest a remedy. Following that, the president has two months to figure the appropriate remedy and he has broad discretion as to what direction to take those remedies.

As noted last week, SEIA and the solar industry is not in favor of this petition and is planned to make its case against it. Here is the latest statement from Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), on the ITC’s decision regarding Suniva’s Section 201 filing:

“The International Trade Commission’s decision to consider Suniva’s petition for a lifeline could be bad news for hundreds of thousands of American workers in the solar industry and may jeopardize billions of dollars in investment in communities across the country. Setting high price floors and exorbitant tariffs is a blunt instrument that would cripple one of the brightest spots in America’s economy.

“While we respect the ITC’s decision to evaluate this claim on its merits, SEIA will remain at the forefront of the opposition to Suniva’s requested remedies. We encourage all members of the solar industry to assist the ITC if asked for information and to work with us to ensure your voice is heard. Our goal throughout this proceeding will remain focused on developing more equitable and sustainable ways to boost American solar manufacturing that benefit many companies instead of just a few and allows the entire solar industry to continue to grow in this country.”

Did Suniva just start a global trade war? A quick summary

— Solar Builder magazine

SEIA explains plan to lead fight against Suniva petition, remedies for the future

suniva petition seia

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) hosted a call to elaborate on its position regarding Suniva’s petition filed with the ITC. The main message is SEIA plans to lead whatever charge is needed to inform the ITC and see that the ITC does not find injury.

“Our role as a lead respondent would be to help ensure the ITC has a full record,” said Abigail Rosss Hopper, CEO of SEIA. “We want them to understand the market, what kind of company Suniva is, what there is to know about their product and the entire value chain.”

SEIA thinks that 1) Suniva is not a representative of the U.S. solar cell and module industry; 2) what Suniva is seeking would damage the entire industry; and 3) the relief would only exacerbate the problems of excess global supply.

Other than that, they think it’s great.

Potential problems

SEIA’s reasoning is echoed by most industry analysts – if this Suniva petition is successful, injury is found and a remedy is recommended, then for the benefit of one company holding a fairly small market share in the industry, the growth and progress of the entire industry could be up-ended and result in a serious crushing blow to the 250,000 total jobs solar created in the U.S.

“If this prevails, analysts predict the price of solar panels in the U.S. could double and then demand will drop as it will become less competitive and project costs will rise,” Hopper notes. Fewer projects. Jobs will drying up. Less demand for solar panels from anywhere. Solar may appear less attractive to financial institutions. The scope and intent of this petition shouldn’t be compared to the requests — and victory — of SolarWorld in 2013 regarding tariffs.

“This time it’s not a question of whether there’s been wrongdoing on any one country’s part – it’s immaterial to this inquiry. This is a much bigger threat level than those original SolarWorld tariffs,” Hopper said.

Work to be done

But beyond doing what it can to avoid these potential outcomes, Hopper also noted SEIA’s commitment to seeking out a better way forward, engaging with stakeholders up and down the value chain for more creative, less single-company-focused solutions.

“How do we support domestic manufacturing of healthy competitive companies while not putting a damper on the solar business. Some of the things we’re thinking about – is there work to be done on research and development? Are there ways to be more efficient? Are there loan programs or other things the DOE could offer to our domestic manufacturers. But as we talk with domestic manufacturers in U.S., we’re inviting them to engage with us. Help us come up with creative solutions together and we’ve had some great conversations.”

Timeline

Expect the ITC to announce whether it will consider the petition soon. If it does, it has four months to decide if there was an injury — a clock that started the day the petition was filed. If it decides there was injury, it has two months to suggest a remedy. Following that, the president has two months to figure the appropriate remedy and he has broad discretion as to what direction to take those remedies.

For more details on the ITC process, read our original post on the news.

Did Suniva just start a global trade war? A quick summary

— Solar Builder magazine