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On Eve of Decision, One Final Volley in CASE-CASM Fight

In a last gasp before a key US federal government preliminary ruling on the solar trade dispute, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) is once again beckoning across the front lines at the the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), chastising its members to come clean with every subsidy they've received from state, federal, and international sources over the past 10 years.

"SolarWorld and CASM members claim that this entire debate is about fairness. As such, we expect that they will release a complete outline of the hundreds of millions of dollars in government support they have received," states CASE president Jigar Shah. Expressing a lack of confidence in both CASM and the US Department of Commerce, though, Shah and CASE offer a summary to jog the memory of CASM leader SolarWorld, which they label "one of the most heavily-subsidized companies in the history of the solar industry:"

  • €130 million in direct subsidies from Germany from 2003-2011 (citing Handelsblatt)
  • An $11 million Business Energy Tax Credit from Oregon in 2009 and an additional $19.4 million (citing the Portland Tribune)
  • An $82.2 million clean energy manufacturing tax credit (citing the Department of Energy)
  • $19 million in preferential export financing for projects in India (citing PV-Tech)
  • A joint-venture partnership with the Qatar Development Bank to build a polysilicon facility (source: SolarWorld itself)
  • The company also apparently was lining up for $4 million in federal monies to support research (source: New York Times), and residency in the Hillsboro (Oregon) Enterprise zone qualifies the company for a 100 percent property tax abatement for up to five years

As for the other recently revealed CASM members, CASE and Shah take a shot at them too. MX Solar got $3.3 million in subsidies from New Jersey for its 50-megawatt (MW) manufacturing plant there, some financial incentives from the state's economic development authority, and benefits from local content requirements in its home market of Italy. And Milwaukee-based Helios Solar Works got a $1.4 million loan from the DoE.

"It's incredibly disturbing that such highly-subsidized companies can start a global trade war and damage the entire US solar industry and threaten tens of thousands of American jobs by accusing their competitors of receiving subsidies," slammed Shah.

The next step in the US-China solar trade dispute, centering on countervailing duties — literally anticipated any minute now — is widely expected to find against Chinese solar suppliers and institute some level of tariff; estimates range from 20-30 percent to higher (maybe much higher). A second ruling later this spring looking at antidumping charges is seen as less likely to succeed, given a higher burden of proof and questions whether a confirmed surge in solar imports could be reasonably explained as reacting to expiring US incentives. (Efforts continue, meanwhile, among US renewable energy proponents to revive both the 1603 Treasury grant and Investment Tax Credit [ITC].)

Some have speculated that even if tariffs are implemented, their impact will be mostly muted. Chinese firms are unlikely to simply abandon the US market; more likely they'll move some manufacturing (even if just some final assembly) to other countries, perhaps neighboring Taiwan or nearby Malaysia — or even to Canada or the US — to dodge the penalty. Most local US firms are expected to find other sources on their own.

RenewableEnergyWorld.com editors will be covering all the details and reactions surrounding Commerce's decision as soon as it's publicized, with coverage and videos live from PV America in San Jose, CA.

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Jim is Contributing Editor for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, covering the solar and wind beats. He previously was associate editor for Solid State Technology and Photovoltaics World, and has covered semiconductor manufacturing and related industries, ...

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