The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Here Comes Another Solar Trade Dispute

Trade complaints are nothing unusual, but they seem to have become more common in the world of solar these days. The U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said Wednesday he's taking the first step toward lodging a World Trade Organization complaint against India for a policy that blocks some U.S. companies from a growing market.

The national policy, launched in 2010, turned India into a potentially vast market for solar equipment makers around the world. The government set out to add 20 GW of grid-tied and 2 GW of off-grid solar energy generation by 2022. The plan generated a flood of excitement for solar manufacturers, but that euphoria was soon tempered by the rule that require project developers to use Indian-made silicon solar cells and panels. Developers who opt to use thin films, which are made with non-silicon compounds such as cadmium telluride, aren't restricted to use domestic products.

The rule was bad news for many of the world's largest solar cell and panel makers, many of whom use silicon and are located in China, Japan, the U.S. and Germany. U.S. companies such as SunPower and Suniva are shut out. The rules did help one U.S. company, First Solar, who began announcing sales deals to Indian developers toward the end of 2010. The Arizona company isn't subject to the "domestic content" rule because it makes cadmium telluride solar panels.

But that exemption may not last long. India is looking at adding non-silicon solar cells and panels to the domestic content requirement.                                              

The WTO complaint is the latest solar trade dispute to emerge. The growing number of trade complaints reflects this intense struggle by manufacturers to survive in the past two years. Supply has far outstripped demand, causing the prices of solar equipment to plummet and dozens of solar cell and panel makers to file for bankruptcy. Many of those who haven't done that have instead scaled back production and suspended plans to build more factories. Gaining a foothold in the next emerging market before others could do the same has become more critical than ever.

The stakes for resolving trade complaints also have become higher. The solar market is growing, and with that comes profits and jobs. Protectionist policies can pop up any time, but they are more likely to gain public support during tough economic times.

A group of glass makers recently filed an anti-dumping complaint with the European Commission against their Chinese rivals. Glass is typically used to cover and protect solar cells from the weather elements. Last year, a group of European solar cell and panel makers lodged a complaint against their Chinese competitors, contending that Chinese companies had received so much government subsidies that they were able to sell their products at below production costs.

The U.S. government wrapped up its investigation of two trade complaints last November and sided with the group of manufacturers, headed by SolarWorld. The investigation found that the Chinese solar cell and panel makers were getting unfair subsidies from the Chinese government and had been selling them at less than their production costs or less than what they sell at home. The U.S. government have since imposed tariffs on imported Chinese solar cells. But some Chinese companies have managed to avoid the tariffs by buying solar cells from countries such as Taiwan. At the same time, the fact that Chinese companies can't or don't want to use their own cells for the U.S. market has forced them to reduce production or scramble to find buyers elsewhere. And that hasn't helped their bottom lines.

The U.S. isn't alone in fighting India's domestic content rule. The European Union and Japan have criticized India's policy. WTO may be sympathetic to the U.S. than India. Last year, the trade organization ruled against some provisions of the domestic content rule from the Ontario province in Canada after receiving complaints from the European Union and Japan. But the Canadian government filed an appeal this week.

Meanwhile, China said it, too, has a trade complaint to investigate. The government is looking into whether silicon producers are selling their products at below production costs. It will then decide whether to impose tariffs on those imported silicon, which mostly comes from the U.S., Korea and Europe.

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


Renewable Energy

The Future of the Internet of Things in Renewable Energy

Michael Hummel The energy business can no longer be differentiated by simply applying more improvements via mechanical engineering a...
clean energy

China’s Guangdong Province Speeds Up Development of the Province’s Clean Energy Industry

Liu Yuanyuan The Guangdong Provincial Development and Reform Commission has recently issued a development road map for the provinc...
solar power

US Solar Power on Track for Record 2015 as Utilities Lead Way

Reed Landberg, Bloomberg Developers installed 1.4 GW of solar power in the U.S. in the second quarter, up 8.7 percent from a year earlier, put...
solar farm

SunEdison Sells Stake in Utah Solar Farm to Dominion for $320 Million

Christopher Martin, Bloomberg SunEdison Inc., the world’s largest clean energy developer, agreed to sell half of a 265 MW solar farm in Utah to Dom...


US Solar Institute Chosen for Military Solar Training at Patrick Air Force Base

In August 2015, the Air Force chose The US Solar Institute (USSI) for a specialized sol...

Solar Power World Ranks Florida Solar One a Top 400 Solar Installer

Florida Solar One, a Miami Fort Lauderdale solar contractor is ranked among the top sol...

AWS Truepower Makes Wind Project Design More Effective with Less Effort with New Openwind® Version

AWS Truepower, LLC, an international leader in renewable energy consulting and informat...

Niner Wine Estates Powers 100 Percent of Winery Operations with REC Solar

The 388 KW solar system installed by REC Solar will pay for itself in approximately fiv...


Clean Energy Collective to use First Solar Panels in Community Solar

Today (Oct. 13) First Solar and Clean Energy Collective (CEC) announced a new partnership today under which First Sol...

Geothermal Visual: GEA, Clean Energy Organizations Tell Congress: We Need Tax Extenders 'As Soon As Possible'

In a letter dated Oct. 5, over 580 signatories representing clean energy industries, including Geothermal Energy Asso...

It's All About The Why

Why do people buy your product or service? This is a question that you should keep in your mind at all times and remi...


Ucilia Wang is a California-based freelance journalist who writes about renewable energy. She previously was the associate editor at Greentech Media and a staff writer covering the semiconductor industry at Red Herring. In addition to Renewable En...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Successfully Integrating Solar: A Proactive Approach

•      What does the increasing solar penetrati...

Solar Power International

Join DCE Solar and EXOSUN at Solar Power International September 15 - 17...

PV-Diesel Hybrid Systems to Reduce Diesel Demand

Substantial fuel cost saving potential has made PV technology the centre...


Community Shared Solar - We're all in this together

New York, Massachusetts, Colorado, Minnesota and California are leading ...

6 Tips For Successful Presentation

As sales professionals, we’re called upon to give presentations fr...

A few smart ways to stay sustainable with turnkey solar energy solu...

Studies prove that most people believe renewable energy is crucial to ou...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now