Oregon Congressional Democrats back SolarWorld in trade action
Democratic lawmakers from Oregon are backing U.S. solar manufacturers, including Hillsboro-based SolarWorld Americas Inc., in a high-profile trade investigation that the wider industry has portrayed as a threat to the solar installation boom.
In a letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission late last week, Sen. Ron Wyden and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader and Peter DeFazio said “we believe that the evidence presented, including with respect to producers in our state, supports a positive finding of injury.”
Wyden was a high-profile supporter of SolarWorld in earlier trade actions that it brought against Chinese and Taiwanese manufacturers.
"While solar demand in the United States is growing, and many sectors of the U.S. solar industry are flourishing, it is clear that the U.S. solar manufacturing industry has been decimated due to surging imports,” the Oregon lawmakers added.
The companies behind the trade petition are both in dire straits. SolarWorld is operating at a severely reduced scale, with about 300 employees, down from a recent peak of around 800, after its German parent SolarWorld AG declared itself insolvent. Chunks of the company in Europe have been sold off, and the insolvency administrator is reportedly looking for a buyer for the U.S. assets. Suniva Inc., based in Georgia, is in bankruptcy.
The Oregon lawmakers said the trade fight was about jobs, and more than that.
"We believe that this is not the time to give up on the technology leadership, R&D, and jobs that come with manufacturing in America," they wrote.
The five Democrats didn't spell out a specific remedy; they said that "should the ITC make an affirmative finding, we support recommending a remedy that will save and strengthen this important American manufacturing industry."
SolarWorld and Suniva are seeking a 40-cent-per-watt duty on imported solar cells, the building blocks of solar panels, and a price floor on panels themselves of 78 cents per watt. Those measures, applying to imports from anywhere in the world, would likely double the cost of solar panels, analysts say.