Solar trade dispute threatens U.S. solar power industry

Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) has released a statement regarding SolarWorld’s trade petition and its potential impact on the U.S. solar industry.

SEMI, the global industry association serving the manufacturing supply chain for the micro- and nano-electronics industries, including semiconductors, photovoltaics (PV), LED, flat panel display and other industries, represents a broad range of U.S. solar industry leaders.

The statement expressed concern about the trade dispute’s potential impact on U.S. solar industry growth and jobs: "This case could lead to significant price increases that could have a significant deleterious impact on SEMI members, many of whom are upstream providers of high value- added equipment and materials. It will also impact downstream service providers, such as installers, where a majority of solar industry jobs are concentrated."

In addition, the SEMI statement noted that "Global trade policies serve a fundamentally important function in the photovoltaic industry since many companies throughout the supply chain are highly dependent on exports and work with a range of customers around the world."

According to the U.S. Solar Energy Industry Association, the U.S. is a net exporter of solar products to China by more than US$200 million dollars and to the world by nearly US$2 billion. A U.S.-China solar trade war could obstruct global solar trade and negatively impact many U.S. exporters of solar products.

Given the potential harm of the trade conflict, SEMI encourages the process to proceed on a "factual basis" and for companies involved to reach a "mutually acceptable accord that will serve the legitimate interest of all parties."

In addition to clean electricity, the solar industry has generated thousands of new jobs across the U.S. According to The Solar Foundation’s 2011 National Solar Jobs Census Report, the solar industry represents 100,237 jobs, as of August 2011. Solar employers plan to increase their workforce by 24 percent next year, creating 24,000 net new jobs, a significant bright spot in the U.S. economy.

"Global solar industry competition drives down cost and creates thousands of American jobs. Political instability and protectionism do not," said Jigar Shah, co-founder and chairman of CASE and founder of SunEdison. "Further price declines driven by intense competition will only grow more new jobs throughout the solar value chain — especially in the U.S. The solar industry’s rapid cost reduction curve, unprecedented in the history of energy technology, remains its primary source of credibility in the U.S. and globally. We must not put that at risk."

The Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), formed one week ago, represents more than 25 leading U.S. solar companies that employ more than 9,000 professionals in the U.S. solar industry, or roughly 9 percent of the industry’s total workforce, and is quickly growing. The Coalition is committed to building a domestic solar industry, promoting innovation, and making solar an affordable option for all Americans.

"Let’s put an end to this. There are no winners in a trade war. Every day we fight amongst ourselves, we lose credibility. The only people slapping hands right now are solar industry critics," added Shah.