Bankrupt Solar Company Wants Trump To Slap High Tariffs On Cheap Panels

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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A solar company that received millions of taxpayer subsidies wants President Donald Trump to impose draconian tariffs on imports from Chinese competitors.

Suniva was founded in Georgia but sold to Japan-based International Clean Energy in 2015. The company filed a rare Section 201 petition with the International Trade Commission (ITC) about a week after seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“Without today’s requested global safeguard, the U.S. solar manufacturing industry will die,” Matt Card, Suniva’s executive vice president of Commercial Operations, said Wednesday in a press statement.

Suniva claimed competition from Chinese-made solar panels all but forced the company into bankruptcy, despite receiving more than $20 million in support from federal and state taxpayers, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“For many years, Chinese manufacturers of solar cells have benefited from favorable, state-sponsored financing and lower labor costs, allowing them to flood the United States market for solar cells and modules with cheap imports,” David Baker, the company’s restructuring officer, said in a statement.

“This has negatively impacted manufacturers based in the United States, such as Suniva,” he said, adding that Suniva has lost $56.3 million since the end of 2014.

The company received $8.8 million from the federal government between 2010 and 2016, as well as $11 million in state incentives so they could manufacture more solar cells, the Atlanta Journal reported. Suniva also got $5.7 million in federal tax credits in 2010 as part of former President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

U.S. solar companies have managed to secure duties on foreign solar panels in the past.

Duties imposed on foreigners in 2012 have prompted manufacturers to shift production of solar panels destined for the U.S. market to other countries in Asia.

Suniva’s petition could drive up the price of U.S. solar systems, placing more stress on large solar panel providers like SolarCity among others. But the company must first convince the ITC that the industry has suffered “serious injury” because of the cheap Chinese panels.

Trump would then decide to approve or disapprove the ITC’s recommendation.

Suniva wants a duty rate of 40 cents per watt on solar cells and a floor price on modules of 78 cents a watt for the first year.

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