US Court Temporarily Halts Overturn of Tariff Exclusion for Bifacial Solar Modules

A bid from renewables developer Invenergy to temporarily pause
the Trump administration’s abrupt decision to reimpose tariffs on
bifacial solar panels has been granted.

The Trump administration granted
bifacial panels an exemption from broader U.S. solar import
tariffs
 in June, in part because of its determination that
bifacial supply to the U.S. was “highly limited.” The decision
was cheered by project developers eager to make use of a
higher-efficiency technology that’s expected to make big inroads in
the solar market in the years ahead.

But in October, the administration
reversed course
 on its exemption, giving the solar industry
trade policy whiplash and prompting challenges to the decision.

This week’s order is a provisional win for Invenergy, which
filed a complaint earlier this month alleging the U.S. Trade
Representative’s turnaround was “unlawfully entered” because
it didn’t allow for notice or comment prior to pulling the
exclusion. The Solar Energy Industries Association sided with
Invenergy on the case. 

In an email, Invenergy told GTM it was “pleased with the
order” and hoped for more permanent relief.

The withdrawal, slated to take effect Friday, is now delayed
until at least November 21 or until a judge rules on Invenergy’s
request for a permanent injunction. The temporary order could also
be extended.

While the future of the policy remains hazy, Xiaojing Sun, a
senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, said
the order “does signal the reversal of the exemption is not rock
solid.” 

Solar squabbles 

Despite SEIA’s stance, solar companies are far from unified on
the exclusion for bifacial panels.

South Korea-based Hanwha Q Cells and First Solar, whose
technology has always been free from the tariffs, criticized the
administration’s decision to grant bifacial modules an exemption
from the start.

“We agree to disagree with [Hanwha] on this,” John Smirnow,
SEIA’s general counsel and vice president of market strategy,

told Morning Consult
 this week. 

Both
First Solar
and Hanwha opened factories in the U.S. in the wake
of the
Section 201 tariff decision
in January of 2018, which makes
foreign-made panels more expensive. The two manufacturers argue

the exclusion undermines
those trade protections.

“Q Cells didn’t ask for the 201 tariffs, but we responded to
them and built the largest solar module factory in America,” said
Scott Moskowitz, director of strategy and market intelligence at
Hanwha, in an email to GTM. “This exclusion clearly undermines
that policy and will harm domestic manufacturers like us, which is
why it [was] withdrawn by USTR.” 

SEIA and other firms, however, disagree. When the administration
granted the exclusion, Smirnow told GTM that it would bolster
bifacial growth at a time when the technology remains in a
“relatively early stage” of deployment. 

More than bolstering U.S.-based industry as Trump hoped, the
administration’s fickle trade policies appear to have created
cracks in the unity of the overall solar industry.

While a number of solar manufacturers, including Hanwha, Jinko
and LG, have invested in U.S. facilities due in part to the trade
restrictions, SEIA has fiercely lobbied against the tariffs.

As the Trump administration and the solar industry quibble over
the details of tariffs, the Section 201 duties are busy stepping
down. Currently, they decrease 5 percent each year, dissolving
altogether after 2022, though the administration is undertaking a
midterm review of the duties and their schedule.

Source: FS – Transport 2
US Court Temporarily Halts Overturn of Tariff Exclusion for Bifacial Solar Modules



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