In a possible move to keep up the momentum of Solar capacity build out in the US, President Joe Biden is likely to use his executive authority vested in the Presidency to allow for a two year waiver for imports from South East Asia. This follows the exemptions given to Bifacial module imports earlier, which should really take out the last remaining issue for solar developers in the country.
The move, if and when it is taken, will mark a significant win for US solar developers and installers, who have been baying for a stop to the current investigation into imports from South East Asia. The investigation by the US Department of commerce, claim developers, has thrown plans for both existing and future projects in disarray, for fear of retrospective tariffs and impact on future prices. Their contention was that coming at a time when solar supply chains are already stretched and prices trending higher as compared to a year back, any further disruptions would take a heavy toll on expansion in the US. Industry association SEIA has been leading the charge from the industry, highlighting loss of thousands of jobs as well as the slowdown to make its case.
The case was brought on a complaint filed by a local manufacturer, that has ben supported by other manufacturers as things started rolling. The South East Asian countries involved, namely Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam faced the prospect of their solar module exports facing countervailing tariffs and anti-dumping penalties. It is no secret that many of the leading Chinese module manufacturers have set up manufacturing facilities in South East Asia precisely to circumvent US tariffs on China based imports.
The move by Biden is likely linked to the real fear of solar capacity creation slowing down, becoming much more expensive, and the loss of jobs, not necessarily in that order.
The US situation is interesting from an Indian perspective too, as there are many similarities to the situation India faces, even as solar manufacturing ramp up is clearly happening at a faster rate here. Many industry experts we have spoken to earlier had argued for at least a 1 year window, or at the very least, a ‘grandfathering’ of certain projects from the tariff rules that have been brought in from April 1 this year. However, it is increasingly evident that with developers stocking up during the zero duty period between July and March this year, the fears of a significant impact on capacity creation might be unfounded. Plus, with huge domestic capacities set to come up, sourcing locally should cease to be an issue from early next year, although prices are bound to be significantly higher with the 40% protection the customs duty offers now.