US photo voltaic is below menace from a DOC inquiry, however the commerce secretary will not step in

US photo voltaic is below menace from a DOC inquiry, however the commerce secretary will not step in


A US Division of Commerce (DOC) probe — investigating whether or not Southeast Asian photo voltaic cell producers are utilizing components made in China that will usually be topic to a tariff — is destabilizing the US photo voltaic {industry}, which depends on photo voltaic module imports to satisfy rising demand. Bipartisan lawmakers needed solutions from US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at a listening to final week, however she principally responded that the inquiry is past her management.

DOC photo voltaic inquiry

The overwhelming majority of the US photo voltaic {industry} asserts that the DOC investigation, which launched on April 1, will devastate photo voltaic companies and wish it to be dismissed. Most additionally don’t assume the investigation – the results of a petition filed by a single US photo voltaic crystalline silicon photovoltaic cell producer who’s incapable of supplying all the US photo voltaic {industry} – ought to have been launched to start with.

In accordance with the Photo voltaic Vitality Industries Affiliation (SEIA), photo voltaic set up forecasts for 2022 and 2023 are being minimize by 46% on account of the DOC investigation. The case will lead to a drop of 24 gigawatts of deliberate photo voltaic capability over the following two years, which is extra photo voltaic than the {industry} put in in all of 2021.

Learn extra: Right here’s how a brand new US protectionist transfer is backfiring badly on the US photo voltaic {industry}

The Worldwide Vitality Company echoed these considerations final week when it reported that US photo voltaic development is now “clouded by uncertainty” on account of “commerce actions towards photo voltaic PV imports from China and Southeast Asia.”

Final Wednesday, Raimondo testified earlier than the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Associated Businesses about President Joe Biden’s finances request for fiscal 12 months 2023. There, senators probed Raimondo concerning the photo voltaic investigation. She demurred:

I personally am not, I don’t have discretion or means to weigh in on their fact-finding course of.

She mentioned that her division would transfer “as quick as attainable” on the investigation, which is able to possible final till the top of August. She added, “If we will do higher than August, we actually will.”

In accordance with the Washington Put up, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) “mused about crafting laws that will require a sure share of photo voltaic builders to log out on such probes sooner or later. He mentioned to Raimondo:

Why is there no industry-supported threshold to provoke this anti-circumvention inquiry? Would laws be useful?

Once I’ve requested you this query, I believe the reply has been, ‘Our fingers are tied.’ I’m attempting to determine the way to untie your fingers.

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) instructed Raimondo:

You do have the discretion to get a little bit extra personally engaged. It doesn’t jeopardize the independence of the investigation.

The DOC investigation is a critical menace to Biden’s purpose of the electrical energy sector reaching web zero by 2035. US Secretary of Vitality Jennifer Granholm instructed the Senate Vitality and Pure Sources Committee final Thursday [via the Washington Post]:

At stake is the whole smothering of the funding and the roles and the independence we might be searching for as a nation to get our gas from our personal technology sources.

I’m deeply involved about with the ability to get to the purpose of 100% clear electrical energy by 2035 if this isn’t resolved rapidly.

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA, mentioned in an official assertion:

The American photo voltaic {industry} wants readability from the Commerce Division, not additional obfuscation and tumult.

Electrek’s Take

I’ve been following this story because it first broke. This newest growth with Raimondo flew below my radar final week (sorry, people, I’m only one particular person on the clear power beat), however Ross Hopper instructed me about it once I noticed her Saturday morning on the Dartmouth Innovation & Know-how Competition.

Once I requested the sustainability panel Ross Hopper sat on about how they thought this investigation may very well be resolved rapidly so as to avert this potential catastrophe, her diplomatic and logical reply was that legislators ought to move the Construct Again Higher invoice.

(As an apart, Consultant Annie McLane Kuster (D-NH) was additionally on the panel, and she or he additionally used diplomacy when she touched upon West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin‘s obstruction of that invoice. She tried to plant seeds of hope that Manchin will finally play ball. I didn’t come away impressed.)

However when Hopper and I spoke afterward, she made it clear, as she has to different press, that she is offended about Raimondo’s inertia. Her anger is justified.

I get that Raimondo is attempting to keep away from political interference within the DOC’s investigation. However certainly there may be an moral and authorized strategy to resolve this rapidly and effectively.

Vitality secretary Granholm sounding the alarm, if nothing else, ought to be a sign to Raimondo that she doesn’t have to take a seat again and do nothing so as to behave ethically. There’s an excessive amount of at stake to be caught up in bureaucratic course of. Raimondo should select to actively problem-solve and never move the buck.

Photograph: “Photo voltaic Set up at Washington County Landfill (Closed)” by MN Air pollution Management Company is licensed below CC BY-NC 2.0.

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September 2022