As a solar advocate and solar marketing consultant, I’d like to offer you some unsolicited PR and damage control advice again, this time regarding your most recent trade suit against China and Taiwan. Please value this advice for what it’s worth (free!).
First, let me congratulate you on all of your public relations efforts to boost support for your cause. Your solar marketing and PR team has really done as much as any company can. For everyone’s solar PR education, you’ve:
All good. And of course, you’ve not only won your first trade case against China, but now, after an additional filing, the International Trade Commission (ITC) recently found evidence that Chinese-made solar products are harming American manufacturers via the Taiwan loophole.
Despite that success, I have to tell you that this most recent trade case — whatever its merits — is also causing significant damage to your brand. Here’s how:
But here’s what may really hurt your brand. Ironically, while your suit is supposed to be promoting fair trade and preserving U.S. solar jobs, SEIA and many installers contend that your winning this latest round will cause fewer U.S. solar installer jobs. They argue that by eliminating competition from China via penalizing tariffs, solar prices will rise, stifling U.S. solar growth and causing layoffs in the installation sector. Plus, if you win and retroactive tariffs are imposed, your potential installer customers may be on the hook for two years-worth of tariffs on past purchases, perhaps causing more layoffs, price increases, or shuttering many solar businesses for good.
So, from a PR perspective, yes, you’ve certainly made the point that winning your case will help preserve SolarWorld manufacturing jobs, but you have not shown how winning will help your U.S. installers to grow their businesses. On the contrary, it will most likely hurt their businesses, and they will probably blame that drop in revenues on the SolarWorld brand.
All the above being said, I don’t think SEIA or any installer wants you to fail or go out of business. They just don’t want solar panel and installation prices to rise again.
And that leads us to the Win-Win-Win opportunity currently before you.
SEIA has proposed a settlement in which Chinese manufacturers will contribute to a fund that benefits U.S. solar manufacturers. The formula is complex, but the bottom line is that if you accept that settlement, then you get to level the playing field and receive extra financial support for every Chinese panel sold in the U.S. That’s the first Win.
The second Win is that solar prices and solar supply will remain stable, enabling your installer customers to continue to grow and offer lower installation prices.
Win #3 is PR. You get credit for leading the charge for U.S.-China fair trade and U.S. manufacturing jobs, and you look great for agreeing to a solution that supports your installer customers, too. Perhaps that’s Win #4.
So, as your unsolicited PR and damage control advisor and as a solar advocate for you and the entire solar industry, I urge you:
Please settle this and let’s all continue to install more solar around the world.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred's Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.
The information and views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and not necessarily those of RenewableEnergyWorld.com or the companies that advertise on this Web site and other publications. This blog was posted directly by the author and was not reviewed for accuracy, spelling or grammar.