The Section 201 Trade Case: Suniva’s Tangled Web

Late this fall President Trump is going to decide how to implement any recommendation made by the International Trade Commission in the Suniva/SolarWorld trade case.

In this first of a series of three blog posts, I’ll look at who benefits financially if President Trump decides in favor of Suniva/SolarWorld.

Neither Suniva Nor SolarWorld Are Actually Owned By Americans

Suniva was started by American investors to commercialize some advanced technology developed years ago by researchers at Georgia Tech. The original American ownership has been substantially diluted over the years, especially after the company flirted with bankruptcy in 2015. At that time Shungfeng International Clean Energy, a nominally Chinese company, acquired most of Suniva’s equity. I say “nominally Chinese” because Shungfeng is chartered in the tax shelter haven of the Cayman Islands. Thus, there is no public information as to who actually owns the company. Suniva filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April. Suniva has ceased production of its panels and laid off virtually all employees.

Suniva’s co-petitioner, SolarWorld, has not had American ownership since the 1980s when Siemens AG acquired ARCO Solar, the predecessor company to SolarWorld. Shell Oil bought the Siemens solar assets in 2002, and then SolarWorld AG of Germany bought Shell Solar’s assets in 2006.

In 2013, Qatar Solar Technologies, based in Doha, Qatar, acquired a majority stake in SolarWorld AG, which filed for bankruptcy in May. Its American subsidiary laid off 360 people at its Portland, Ore., manufacturing facility this month.

In summary, we have two bankrupt companies, neither of which is American-owned, leading the charge against the 38,000 American solar manufacturing workers and the total 260,000 workers in the U.S. solar industry.

In part two of this series, I’ll explain why neither of these two companies have control of the case, despite having their names (and fingerprints) all over it.

This article was updated at 3:40 p.m. ET on Aug. 3 to correct the number of people laid off at the Portland, Ore., manufacturing facility from 800 to 360.

Lead image credit: zstockphotos | depositphotos.com

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Since 2007 Mr. Clifford has led Standard Solar’s rapid growth into a nationally known PV developer/ EPC. Mr. Clifford began his career at Solarex Corporation, later acquired by British Petroleum and known as BP Solar. Throughout his career, Mr. Clifford has served as chief executive officer or chief financial officer of three high growth technology companies that were acquired by major corporations. He is an elected board member of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), serves on SEIA’s Executive Committee and also served as president of the regional chapter of SEIA, MDV-SEIA from 2009 to 2012. Mr. Clifford is the author of a DOE report entitled Tax-Advantaged Investments in Renewable Energy Projects; and received a “Special Achievement Award for Technology Demonstration” from the U. S. Secretary of Energy. He was awarded the 2011 Industry Leader Award by the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC), for his contributions to the advancement of solar and other clean energy resources in the state. Mr. Clifford earned his MBA at University of Virginia’s Darden School and his undergraduate degree at Penn State.

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