U.S. curbs on cheap imports of solar panels could mean the widespread loss of jobs in Asia, which accounts for over 90 percent of the world’s solar-panel production capacity.
Singapore-based panel-manufacturer, REC (Renewable Energy Corporation), is awaiting the Trump administration’s final decision on steps it might take in restricting imports of solar panels that compete with American-made ones. The announcement is expected early next year.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) confirmed in September that imports from Mexico, Korea and, to a lesser extent Canada, are mainly to blame for hurting the domestic solar equipment industry.
The commission did not consider countries including Singapore, Australia, Panama and Jordan as having caused substantial injury to domestic industry.
REC Chief Executive Steve O’Neil is monitoring the situation. “We’re certainly paying a lot of attention to it. We will know more once the Trump administration makes their final ruling,” he told Reuters.
REC, founded in Norway and headquartered in Singapore, has production facilities here and in the United States. According to a Reuters report, the company has a “production capacity of 1.5 gigawatts (GW) and sells about half of its panels in the United States, 30 percent in Europe and the rest in Asia.”
The USITC investigation was initiated after Georgia-based Suniva Inc filed a petition stating that cheap imports were putting them out of business. The company, which is majority owned by Hong Kong-based Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd, laid off more than 100 employees and filed for bankruptcy in April, a week before submitting the petition. Oregon-based SolarWorld Americas, the U.S. branch of Germany’s SolarWorld AG, which had to lay off 75 percent of its workforce, supported the petition.
The commission found that unfair competition and not poor business practices were responsible for the companies’ poor performance.