Bifacial Solar Panels Tariff Exemption Removed Once Again by Trump Administration

PVTIME – The United States Trade Representative announced on
Friday that the previously granted tariff exemption for bifacial solar panels
will once again be withdrawn effective May 18 2020. The representatives of the USTR
has determined that the bifacial solar panel exclusion to be “undermining the
objectives of the safeguard measure”.

A timeline of the roller coaster ride bifacial panels has been riding on is as followed:

-On January 23, 2018, the
President imposed a safeguard measure on imports of certain solar products
pursuant to a Section 201 investigation.

-On February 14, 2018, the
U.S. Trade Representative established procedures for interested persons to
request product-specific exclusions from application of the safeguard measure
and to comment on the submitted requests.

-On June 13, 2019, based on
the requests and comments received, the U.S. Trade Representative granted
certain requests including a request to exclude from the safeguard measure
bifacial solar panels that consist only of bifacial solar cells.

-When bifacial panels were first granted exclusion from tariffs,
companies with manufacturing operations in the US such as Hanwha Q CELLS and
Suniva strongly opposed the exclusion, citing that the exemption helped
internationally manufactured panels undercut domestically produced products.

October 2019, just before the administration withdrew the exemption for
bifacial panels, Invenergy Renewables filed a legal challenge on grounds that
the USTR hasn’t allowed for comment or notice prior to the withdrawal.

December 2019, the US Court of International Trade sided with Invenergy,
allowing the exclusion to stand.

-On January 27, 2020, the U.S.
Trade Representative reestablished procedures to consider whether to maintain,
withdraw, or take some other action with respect to the exclusion of bifacial
solar panels from the safeguard measure.

-On April 17, 2020, based on
an evaluation of the comments received, and responses to those comments, and in
consultation with the Secretaries of Commerce and Energy, the U.S. Trade
Representative has determined that the bifacial solar panel exclusion is
undermining the objectives of the safeguard measure. Accordingly, the U.S.
Trade Representative will request that the U.S. Court of International Trade
lift the order preliminarily enjoining the withdrawal from entering into

The increase in both popularity and market share of bifacial panels are major contributing factors in the USTR’s newest decision. In a report issued by he US International Trade Commission (ITC) in response to a request from the USTR for advice regarding the potential modifications to the safeguard measure, which provided certain information with regard to the bifacial exclusion , the report read,“bifacial panels are projected to gain a large share of total demand in the coming years due to their power-generation advantages and relative cost-competitiveness with monofacial panels — particularly the price advantage that the bifacial exclusion conferred upon them.” The report went on to add, “Accordingly, the ITC found that the bifacial exclusion (a) likely will result in substantial increases in imports of bifacial panels, and (b) that these products likely will compete with domestically produced solar products in the U.S. market.”

In a statement following the USTR’s
decision, John Smirnow, vice president of market strategy & general counsel
for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said,

“The U.S. solar industry is
disappointed by USTR’s decision. The industry initially sought this exclusion
because there is, and will be for the foreseeable future, an acute shortage of
domestic panels used in utility-scale solar projects. Throughout this process,
the solar industry has sought to find a middle ground solution that addressed
this shortage in a way that did not undermine the objectives of the underlying
Section 201 safeguard measure.

“It is unfortunate that USTR
chose to pursue a course of action that will needlessly increase the financial
burden on America’s energy consumers. We still hope to work with the
administration to find constructive ways to grow the U.S. solar manufacturing base
and take full advantage of the opportunities the solar industry offers to the
American economy’s recovery.”