Energy & Environment

Commerce Department says five solar companies dodged tariffs in final finding

The Commerce Department has determined five Southeast Asian companies circumvented tariffs on Chinese solar components, while the remaining three companies under investigation did not.

The department announced its investigation last year, focusing on eight companies headquartered in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam: BYD Hong Kong, New East Solar, Hanwha Q CELLS, Jinko Solar, Canadian Solar, Trina Solar, Boviet Solar and Vina Solar. The final determination, issued Friday, found all but Hanwha Q CELLS, Jinko and Boviet engaged in tariff-dodging.

The final results reflect those of the preliminary report the Commerce Department released in December, with one exception: New East Solar was found not to have circumvented in the preliminary report, but during the investigation process, the company refused to cooperate and denied auditors access during the onsite investigation, a senior Commerce official said on a call with reporters.

“In line with our longstanding practice and U.S. law, we had to make an adverse inference and so we’re finding in the final results that New East Solar is circumventing because we could not verify the accuracy and reliability of our information,” the official said. 

The investigation had been fiercely opposed by the U.S. solar industry and its allies in Congress, who have warned it would deal a major blow to the industry at a time when solar buildout is essential to achieving the Biden administration’s carbon-neutrality goals.

“Americans want abundant, reliable, and clean energy,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), in a statement. “This decision moves the goalpost yet again for the solar and storage industry and will only undermine the progress of companies that are working hard to deliver American solar products.”

Amid the investigation, President Biden in 2022 suspended tariffs on solar panels from the four countries for two years.

A Congressional Review Act resolution that would have resumed the tariffs passed Congress in May, but Biden vetoed the resolution.

In keeping with that suspension, the Commerce official said, none of the duties will be collected until next June.

“Nevada has the most solar jobs per capita in the nation, and any action that threatens this industry also threatens the livelihoods of thousands of workers in our state,” Sen Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who has been one of the most vocal critics of the investigation, said in a statement. “While this decision is narrower than the original petition called for, it will still hurt the solar industry and solar companies’ ability to grow.”

“Let me be clear: this misguided decision is going to directly affect our nation’s solar economy,” she added. “I’ll continue fighting for Nevada’s solar industry and the good-paying, union jobs it creates.”

The Hill has reached out to the solar companies found to be circumventing for comment.

Tags Abigail Ross Hopper Joe Biden