SolarWorld Wins Initial U.S. Vote on Taiwan Solar Imports

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted unanimiously in favor of a complaint brought by SolarWorld AG against imports of solar panels from Taiwan and China.

The affirmative decision is the first of four the company must win before duties are placed on solar photovoltaic products from the two nations, the commission said today in a statement on its website.

Duties may help manufacturers including the U.S. unit of SolarWorld, which competes with low-cost panels from Asia and filed a complaint on Dec. 31. A group of U.S. solar developers that oppose SolarWorld’s effort say duties will raise their costs and slow adoption of solar energy.

“By raising the cost of solar for American homeowners, SolarWorld is poised to inflict critical damage on an industry which last year added more than 20,000 solar installation, sales and distribution jobs,” Jigar Shah, president of the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, said in an e-mailed statement.

SolarWorld said it’s acting on behalf of 244 U.S. solar companies and disputes the notion that duties will boost prices for U.S. consumers, said Ben Santarris, a spokesman for SolarWorld’s U.S. unit in Hillsboro, Oregon.

The Commerce Department imposed duties in May 2012 of as much as 250 percent on solar cells produced in China, in response to an earlier SolarWorld complaint.

Chinese manufacturers responded by buying some solar cells from Taiwan, allowing them to avoid most of the duties. The current case would expand the protections by applying duties to products from Taiwan.

Solar imports from China were worth about $2.1 billion in 2012 and about $513 million from Taiwan, according to the Commerce Department.

Today’s decision prompts the Commerce Department to issue a preliminary determination on countervailing duties on March 28, and on anti-dumping on June 11.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.