« NEM 2.0 is Coming - But Not Before July 1Knock, Knock - Who's There? »

Suniva - the Tail Wagging the Dog

04/30/17

  01:01:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 656 words  
Categories: Solar Economics, Ranting

Suniva - the Tail Wagging the Dog

Prices for solar modules have been dropping for years at the same time that their efficiency and overall quality has continued to improve.  This has made solar more affordable for not only residential solar system owners, but also for utility scale solar projects that can now produce electricity at prices that are helping to put dirty, coal-fired power plants out of business.  This is a win-win for all - cheaper, cleaner electricity is just a good thing for everyone.

Unless, that is, you are Suniva.

Who is Suniva, you ask?  Really good question.  Suniva is a Georgia-based solar module manufacturer that filed for bankruptcy earlier this month and then, on April 26th filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission calling for protectionist tariffs on imported solar cells and modules from the rest of the world.  If granted, the tariffs would add $0.40/Watt on imported cells and put a floor of $0.78/Watt on modules. 

Stephen Lacey over at Greentech Media has a nice summary of the proposed tariffs.  From his article:

The company filed a Section 201 petition under the 1974 Trade Act – a tool that could allow the president to implement tariffs, minimum prices or quotas on solar products from anywhere in the world if “serious injury” is proven. It was last used by the steel industry in 2002, which resulted in a three-year tariff schedule on steel products from a number of countries.

If anti-dumping and countervailing duties investigations at the Commerce Department are a scalpel, then Section 201 is a hammer. It is a comparatively swift, blunt instrument. After a petition is filed, the U.S. International Trade Commission has 120 days to review. And if it decides that the industry is facing serious injury, it has another month or two to issue recommendations. The president then has the authority to follow the recommendations – or potentially act on his own.

Trump’s camp specifically cited Section 201 on the campaign trail. Although solar doesn’t seem to be on the president’s mind, this could be a potential win for his trade agenda.

Great.  Suniva is essentially begging the President to blunt the growth of the entire solar industry so that they can “compete".

Which made us wonder, how big a player is Suniva anyway?

Well judging from the California solar market, not so much.  We pulled the NEM Currently Interconnected dataset from the California Distributed Generation Statistics page.  This dataset has entries for all net metered solar installations in the territories of California’s three IOU’s: PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E.  The dataset spans from 1998 through January 31, 2017, and contains 603,000 entries. 

One of the things captured in the data is the manufacturer of the solar modules being used, and the number being installed.  Creating a pivot table from the raw data - and some scrupulous merging of the data to account for creative variations in how the manufacturer’s name was recorded (for example, SunPower was listed 8 different ways) - allows us to see the market share for module manufacturers based on total number of modules installed.  Here’s what that graph looks like:

Module market share

There are sixteen module manufacturers on that graph, and Suniva is tail-end Charlie, having less than 10% of the installed base that market leader, SunPower, has.  Curiously, SunPower is a premium (i.e., expensive) module that is also made in the U.S. 

Square in the middle of that chart is our panel maker of choice, LG, and no one could suggest that they are “dumping” panels on the market. Yet despite entering the US market years after Suniva was founded, LG has outsold them nearly 4 to 1.

What makes Suniva’s pitch even more disingenuous is that it is actually a subsidiary of Shunfeng International Clean Energy, headquartered in Hong Kong!

The solar industry does not need more protectionist trade policies, we need to keep building as much clean energy as we can, as fast as we can.  We shouldn’t let a foreign-owned manufacturer derail that progress under the guise of patriotism, but really just for their own gain.

2 comments

User ratings
5 star:
 
(1)
4 star:
 
(0)
3 star:
 
(0)
2 star:
 
(0)
1 star:
 
(0)
1 rating
Average user rating:
5.0 stars
(5.0)
Comment from: frank  
5 stars
frank“SunPower is a premium (i.e., expensive) module that is also made in the U.S.” Sunpower doesn’t have manufacturing facilities in the USA. And I got the information from 10-k filing report with SEC on February 17, 2017, here is the link:http://investors.sunpower.com/sec.cfm"Our headquarters and research and development operations are located in California, and our manufacturing facilities are located in the Philippines, Malaysia, France, and Mexico.”
05/01/17 @ 15:39
Comment from: Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO  
Frank – Thanks for the information - as to Sunpower I stand corrected. Much appreciated. (Though I swear I have heard Sunpower dealers tell potential customers that their panels are made in the USA!) Jim
05/01/17 @ 16:03
Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

Ready to Save?

Let’s Get Started!

Give Us a Call!

626.793.6025 or
310.584.7755

Click to Learn More About Commercial Solar Power!

We're Social!



Follow Run on Sun on Twitter Like Run on Sun on Facebook

Search

Run on Sun helps fight Climate Change
powered by b2evolution free blog software