Import tariffs cause U.S. module prices to rise 286 percent
2024-06-11 17:23

Since October 10, 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce under then-President Barack Obama has imposed import tariffs on all solar modules containing key components from China. Now, in 2024, with the U.S. PV industry in full expansion, the U.S. has imposed five import tariffs, a geographic import ban, and recently initiated another tariff case that is currently under investigation.

Clean Energy Associates analyst Christian Roseland released a paper titled“U.S. Trade Policies Affecting Solar Photovoltaics,”which lists seven tariff policies:


The 2012 Antidumping and Antidumping and Countervailing Duties applies to all solar cells originating in China.

According to a fact sheet from the U.S. International Trade Administration, the U.S. Department of Commerce ruled that Chinese producers or exporters of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules were engaged in dumping practices in the U.S. when they sold such products, with dumping margins ranging from 18.32% to 249.96%. MOFCOM also determined that Chinese producers or exporters received offsetting subsidies ranging from 14.78% to 15.97%. Fifty-nine companies, including Suntech and Trina were included in the list.


While not technically affecting the price of solar cells, in 2014, the Obama administration accused five Chinese military hackers of cyber espionage against U.S. companies and a labor organization. The charges stemmed from the theft of thousands of documents, including information about SolarWorld's cash flow, production metrics, production line information, costs, and privileged attorney-client communications related to ongoing trade litigation.


In February 2015, this tariff found dumping and subsidization of photovoltaic exports to the United States from both places (China as well as Taiwan). At that time, Chinese PV companies had begun investing in Taiwan to manufacture cells, which were then shipped to the mainland for module assembly. The U.S. Department of Commerce will ask Customs to impose anti-dumping duties of 26.71%-165.04% and countervailing duties of 27.64%-49.79% on products from mainland China, and anti-dumping duties of 11.45%-27.55% on products from Taiwan at a later date.

Of these, 26% tariffs were levied on Trina, 78% on Jinko, and 52% on many companies. Companies not on the original list face a national tariff of 165%.


After Suniva filed its lawsuit, the Trump administration implemented two additional tariffs: sections 201 and 301, which apply to solar modules and hundreds of other items, respectively. On photovoltaic cells and modules, the U.S. will set a duty-free quota of 2.5GW, with imports in excess of that being subject to a 30% tariff in the first year, with the rate decreasing to 25%, 20%, and 15% in the following three years. The Biden administration later extended this tariff. Initially, the Section 201 tariff excluded bifacial solar modules because the U.S. did not produce them in large quantities. However, as the U.S. module manufacturing base began to expand, the Biden Administration reinstated the 15 percent tariff on bifacial modules.


On June 21, 2022, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) came into effect, which prohibits the importation of goods from Xinjiang unless the supplier can prove that the product does not involve “forced labor.” The region is known for its solar polysilicon production, thanks to cheap coal power. As a result, a large number of solar modules have been banned from entering the United States by customs.


After the lawsuit was dismissed in 2021 due to anonymity issues, in 2022 Auxin Solar filed an anti-dumping/countervailing duty (AD/CVD) lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Commerce, claiming that Chinese module makers were producing some of the modules at factories in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia) and thus avoiding payment of tariffs. At the time, the White House granted the four Southeast Asian countries a two-year exemption from the AD/CVD duties, which expired on June 6, 2024.

The ruling specifies that tariffs will not be imposed on Chinese-made solar cells if at least three of the six key components of the solar cells (including silver paste, aluminum frames, glass, backsheets, ethylene vinyl acetate sheets, and junction boxes) are not made in China.

2024a (2018 Part 2)

The current administration extended and increased tariffs under the Section 301 ruling enacted in 2018, which now covers solar cells as well as automotive batteries and grid storage. Tariffs on solar cells rose from 25 percent to 50 percent, with tariffs on batteries going up by as much as 25 percent. Today, the cost of importing solar cells from China is at less than 5 cents per watt, and with this increase, tariffs will increase from $0.0125/Wdc to $0.025/Wdc.

2024b - pending investigation

On April 24, the U.S. PV manufacturers, including First Solar, Meyer Burger, REC Silicon and other PV manufacturers, submitted an application to the USITC and the Department of Commerce to carry out a double-reverse investigation of PV modules in four Southeast Asian countries. According to the content of the applicant's application, the U.S. dumping investigation of the countries involved in the product, for the period and countries were: April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand's photovoltaic products; October 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 from Vietnam's photovoltaic products. The subsidy investigation period is from January 2023 to December 2023. The dumping margins alleged by the applicants are 127.06% for Cambodia, 81.24% for Malaysia, 70.35% for Thailand, and 271.45% for Vietnam.

And with the previous double-reverse investigation is different, the United States this double-reverse investigation is not only for Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia government subsidies to their own photovoltaic manufacturing industry, but also the Chinese government on the transfer of the photovoltaic industry cross-border subsidies included in the claim of subsidies to investigate the project.

Assuming the cost of a solar module is $0.10/watt, a 15% tariff under Section 201 would increase the cost by $0.015/watt, while a 50% tariff under Section 301 would increase the cost by $0.05/watt.

In contrast, the 2015 AD/CVD provisions impose different tariffs depending on the manufacturer and country/region. For example, when importing from China, Trina Solar products are subject to a 26% tariff, JinkoSolar products are subject to a 78% tariff, and the standard rate applicable to a large number of companies is 52%. And some companies may face tariffs of 165 percent. The tariffs result in additional costs of between $0.026/watt and $0.165/watt.

And if the 2024b tariff is formalized, it will increase costs significantly. For example, modules assembled in Thailand add $0.07035/watt and modules assembled in Vietnam add $0.27145/watt. However, these countries are exempt from the Section 301 tariffs that target only Chinese-made products.

Overall, a solar module that initially costs $0.1/watt could end up costing $0.191/watt- $0.38/watt, i.e., a cost increase of 91% to 286%.


Tags:cell , PV