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EnergyTrend says 2018 US solar demand could plunge to 5.5 GW

Birds on a solar module. Author: Don McCullough. License: Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Sep 26 (Renewables Now) - Solar demand in the US could be as low as 5.5 GW in 2018 if the trade barrier related to the Section 201 safeguards case is set “extremely high”, EnergyTrend projects.

Analyst Jason Tsai explains that tariffs on imports could be based on the price differences between US-made and foreign-made modules. Another option, the establishment of minimum import prices for cells and modules, would use as a basis for the calculation the average production costs of US manufacturers, a lot of which produce high-efficiency products.

“If ITC chooses not to differentiate tariff rates or import prices based on product types, then there is a strong likelihood that the trade barrier it recommends will be closer to the demands in Suniva’s petition,” Tsai said.

US solar products maker Suniva, the one that initiated the global safeguards case, has proposed a minimum price on crystalline silicon (C-si) PV modules of USD 0.78 (EUR 0.66) per watt, and a tariff on cells of USD 0.40 per watt in the first year.

Utility-scale solar projects are expected to bear the brunt of the negative impact of any measures introduced by the ITC, as most of the imports concern that segment. In 2016 the country installed roughly 14.8 GW of solar capacity, including 10.6 GW of utility solar, so hurting that segment hurts overall demand.

The green energy research division of Taiwan’s TrendForce, calculates, based on customs data, that the US imported about 5 GW of modules from the start of May to the end of August. More imports are expected to November 13, when the US International Trade Commission (ITC) has to present to President Donald Trump proposed measures to protect the US solar photovoltaic (PV) industry from imports.

EnergyTrend projects the overall US module inventory would be exhausted in the second quarter of 2018. Until then demand for module imports would be close to zero.

(USD 1 = EUR 0.85)

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Browse all articles from Tsvetomira Tsanova

Tsvet has been following the development of the global renewable energy industry for seven years now. She's got a soft spot for emerging markets.

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