OPINION: Solar Industry — and thousands of jobs — at Risk

Read original article here.

By LOGAN LANDRY Sep 19, 2017

The future of the U.S. solar industry hangs in the balance as the federal government weighs a decision regarding pleas by two struggling solar companies to save them from their own poor business practices.

Unfortunately, while this sounds like the plot of some Aaron Sorkin thriller, what you just read is real: two companies are looking for special protection at the expense of the rest of the American solar industry.

The details are surprisingly simple. On August 15, the U.S. International Trade Commission conducted a hearing to determine if imported solar cells and modules caused “injury” to these two bankrupt manufacturers.

What’s under consideration at the ITC is a petition by Suniva and SolarWorld asking the government to impose extra costs on all imported solar products and components, substantially increasing existing tariffs and providing an unfair market advantage to these two companies. Keep in mind, if these two companies were successfully competitive, this would not be in consideration.

According to Wall Street analysts, the proposed remedies would double the price of solar panels in the U.S., increase the cost of starting a project, slash demand, make solar artificially less competitive with other sources of electricity, and deny consumers an affordable choice for powering their homes and businesses.

Even more onerous is that if the ITC sides with the two failing companies, it will stop the growth of an industry that created one out of every 50 new U.S. jobs in 2016, grew at least 20 percent per year over the past four years, and nearly tripled the number of jobs since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.

For Virginia, the stakes are high, too. Solar companies here employed 3,236 workers last year, up from 1,963 in 2015.

In total, if the ITC agrees with two bankrupt companies, it will threaten thousands of successful American businesses, and over 260,000 solar workers’ jobs, while endangering a rapidly growing industry that diversifies the U.S. energy sector.

And while 38,000 Americans manufacture a wide range of solar components, such as racking systems and inverters, by contrast, Suniva and SolarWorld employ less than 500 workers. The logical disparity there is astounding.

That these companies are failing while demand for solar is growing should be all the evidence we need to ask the ITC to turn down the request of these bad actors.

But there is more.

Suniva and SolarWorld do not have support from anyone in the solar industry. Successful U.S. solar product manufacturers know their businesses will suffer and have voiced their opposition to this move. In fact, Suniva’s Chinese-owned funders are not supporting the company’s petition for trade protection.

Despite their claims, this case is not about protecting solar jobs in the U.S. It is about two poorly run companies, using special interest and political leverage to recover lost funds for their own financial gain. It’s also about Wall Street speculators, who lost money on solar companies, looking for a way to recover their bad bets by misusing U.S. trade laws at the expense of American manufacturing jobs.

If these companies truly cared about U.S. jobs, they would not jeopardize an entire industry for a taxpayer-subsidized lifeline. They could simply embrace innovation, and manage their businesses more efficiently like so many others in the industry.

As Virginia’s largest solar company, we compete on our own merits with the products and services we offer. We enjoy the same business environment as every one of our competitors. We hope the ITC sees this for what it is, and denies these two companies their request.

Let’s not stifle job creation for the sake of two bad companies, let’s foster job growth for the good of the nation.

Logan Landry is CEO of Sigora Solar, which is headquartered in Charlottesville and has a location in Waynesboro.

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