There are also alternatives to subsidies that solar power could latch on to. The Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) program grants anyone who installs solar access to the state market to sell credits for every 1,000 kilowatt-hour of electricity generated. This is currently on offer in New Jersey, and other states are considering similar programs.
Slapping harsh tariffs on Chinese solar panels was the result of some heavy-handed lobbying led most relentlessly by German-owned SolarWorld AG, which is now planning to file an anti-dumping case against Chinese firms in the European market.
According to SolarWorld, the company will pursue “anti-subsidy” and “anti-dumping” cases against Chinese solar panel manufacturers in Europe in cooperation with a coalition of European manufacturers.
This is a rather rich move coming from a company that has itself been built on government subsidies.
It also comes on the heels of a decision by the US Commerce Department in May to impose a 31% tariff on the main Chinese manufacturers of solar panels in the US—a move led by petitioning efforts from SolarWorld’s US branches.
China is not entirely to blame for the global oversupply, of course. All manufacturers continued to produce massive quantities of solar panels despite overstocked inventories.
What most fail to understand, however, is that the US wants (and needs) Chinese clean-energy cash in order to make its clean-energy ambitions a reality—especially at a time when federal subsidies are dwindling.
More important than the solar panel dumping debate is what China can do for the US clean energy industry through cash investments—and China is aggressively pursuing this avenue with the American blessing. China invested $264 million last year in renewable-energy deals in the US. Beijing-based GSR Ventures, from its offices in Silicon Valley, helped fund electric battery manufacturer Boston-Power Inc’s move into China. Meanwhile, San Francisco has come up with the ChinaSF program, whose ultimate goal is to lure Chinese investment in clean energy.
In the end, it will be Chinese cash and American access to (massive) Chinese consumers for clean-energy products that saves the industry and allows it to gain a competitive edge over fossil fuels.
As such, slapping tariffs on Chinese solar panels for “dumping” is tantamount to biting the hand that will feed the US clean-energy industry. And as for US solar panel manufacturers, well, competition means finding ways to survive in the real market, beyond subsidies that were never intended to last forever. Solar companies must adapt or shut down.
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