So the other day I posted a blog surrounding this whole mess we’re calling the ‘solar trade war’, of which the US and China are the key players, and of which I finished by saying would benefit nobody and, if anything, seriously hurt the solar industry at a crucial (this can’t be understated) moment in its growth.
At this point in time, solar as a form of energy, a very nice one at that, is rapidly approaching grid parity with fossil fuels, and in many instances is able to compete on par for energy prices to both consumer and producer, with the big coal and oil lobbies. That is one impressive feat considering relatively little government subsidies have been involved (that’s relative to fossil fuels) and massive growth has occurred in just 5-10 years, not decades.
However, this lack of comparative funding and phenomenal growth clearly doesn’t sit very well with the US and the Department of Commerce, who severely oppose the Chinese solar market and it’s doings, which have undeniably been a key driving force in this event.
Very briefly, the Chinese government has been found ‘illegally’ subsidising their solar industry and key companies, such as SunTech, by selling them for below-market prices, effectively flooding the global solar market with cheap panels. The US has branded this anticompetitive and blamed it for the crash in US-solar sales and Solyndra’s collapse, responding by slapping a small, but nonetheless important 2-4% trade import tariff on Chinese solar. That was then.
Now it seems they’ve upped the ante, with the Department of Commerce raising tariffs to 31% for the major Chinese solar companies, and as high as 250% (!!) on smaller firms, effectively forcing the Chinese to raise their prices to meet ‘market’ levels, i.e. the US’, despite their ability to produce at such cheap and effective prices. I find this to be sheer madness (some may say blatant protectionism) by the Department, who could easily be accused of crippling the solar industry at a time when just one more nudge in the right way could lead to an explosion in sunlight-derived energy.
It may be true that the Chinese have been unfairly aiding their solar markets, but the fact of the matter is this; the US is doing exactly the same, and as I say in my earlier post, SolarWorld reaps rewards far beyond those of SunTech, and yet we leave them alone entirely. Not only this, but why should cheap solar panels, in abundance around the world, which are no doubt forcing prices down hugely and cleaning up the atmosphere, be subject to these crazy tariffs just because the US feels its own domestic manufacturers are at risk?