California-based solar panel assembler Auxin Solar has filed a new petition with the Department of Commerce seeking a review of imports of solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam using components from China to avoid anti-dumping and countervailing (AD/CV) measures on Chinese imports. The trade has one month to decide whether to take up the case.

Installation of LONGi solar panels

A similar request was denied by Commerce last year. While the 2021 petition requested the review of a limited number of Chinese companies by name, this new petition requests a review of all imports from four Southeast Asian countries that use Chinese components .

AD/CV duties have been in place against Chinese solar makers since 2012. Auxin Solar says Chinese solar panel makers ship solar cells to facilities in Southeast Asia to complete panel assembly to avoid to pay the fees.

US imports of Chinese panels have fallen over the past decade, while the majority of imported solar panels come from Southeast Asia. A report from last year indicated that solar panels from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam accounted for 80% of US supply of crystalline silicon modules in the first half of 2021.

Cambodia is a new addition to this discussion. Imports from the country were virtually non-existent prior to 2018. The country was excluded from separate Section 201 tariffs on imported solar panels since it contributed less than 3% of total imports into the United States. Auxin Solar claims that due to the exclusion, Chinese solar companies have started transferring their business to Cambodia, and now the country deserves closer scrutiny.

Although Auxin Solar calls the companies by name in the petition, the trade is urged to look at countries as a whole rather than individual players. This differs from the 2021 petition, which came from a group of anonymous American manufacturers calling themselves American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention (A-SMACC). The companies requested anonymity because they feared retaliation from the Chinese companies they named. The petition was largely rejected because of this anonymity (the Department of Commerce could not determine the business relationships of anonymous companies in the countries mentioned) and because the appeal to specific companies violated the requirements. of the Tariff Act of 1930 (which examines countries rather than companies).

In 2015, the Commerce Department conducted a similar investigation into Chinese solar companies moving solar cell production to Taiwan to avoid anti-dumping tariffs. Commerce found Taiwan operations at fault and tariffs were extended domestically.

During the discussion of last year’s petition, many in the US solar installation community were feeling the effects of the suggested tariffs. In addition to global supply chain issues, the 2021 petition had spooked some module exporters, resulting in fewer solar panels entering the country. In September, George Hershman, president of SOLV Energy, the nation’s largest solar EPC with 3,000 employees nationwide, said the petition affected the company’s ability to plan future projects.

“Module deliveries to the United States have frozen. It’s not something in the future. Just filing this petition essentially froze the market,” he said. “We can’t get module makers to sign purchase orders today that we need to deliver short-term projects because we’re worried if there will be a 50-250% tariff when those modules arrive. at the port. No one can take that cost risk, so it essentially prevents projects from moving forward.

Hershman said SOLV Energy was already under contract for 4.5 GW of solar installations in 2022 and the suggested tariffs had put “almost 100% of that work” at risk. “To say this is a small issue or a nuanced issue is clearly an understatement. This presents a significant risk to our business and those thousands of employees. It’s about whether or not we hire 3,000 or 4,000 employees to roll out the projects we have contracted or start laying off employees in 30 days,” he said in September.

Although Commerce has denied this 2021 petition, the battle is on again.