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Suniva's petition to hurt US solar installs across all segments

Utility PV Pipeline. Image by GTM Research/SEIA's report.

June 8 (Renewables Now) - GTM Research and SEIA say the US’ solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity could nearly triple through 2022, but they warn that, if successful, Suniva’s petition for trade remedies on imported cells and modules could significantly reduce installations.

The approval of the Suniva petition as initially filed would result in “substantial downside revisions” to the GTM Research forecast for residential, commercial and utility solar installations, the firm said.

In the first quarter of 2017 the US installed 2,044 MW direct current (DC) of PV capacity, according to a report by GTM and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The price of modules in the period was at around USD 0.40 (EUR 0.36) per watt, while for cells it stood at USD 0.20 per watt. This compares to prices of USD 0.63/W and USD 0.32/W, respectively, a year earlier.

Suniva’s Section 201 petition seeks relief against imports from all geographic sources, and it proposes a minimum price on crystalline silicon (C-si) PV modules of USD 0.78/W, and a tariff on cells of USD 0.40/W in the first year. These would be reduced annually for three years.

GTM notes that a USD 0.78/W price on modules is equal to 2012 levels for imported Chinese modules and it would put average system costs at 2015 levels. It says Suniva’s petition could raise system costs between 13% and 35%, depending on the segment.

The market research company expects 36 states to be at grid parity for rooftop solar at the end of 2017 under current conditions, but that number would be reduced by 11 if Suniva’s proposal got the green light in the second half of 2017 and entered into force next year.

A positive decision on the Suniva petition would also affect projects in the utility-scale pipeline. Currently, there are 21,776 MW of projects with signed offtake contracts, of which 4,690 MW are under construction, the GTM/SEIA report shows. Many of these projects won power purchase agreements (PPAs) thanks to their cost-competitiveness with natural-gas alternatives. GTM says project cancellations could be expected if the prices of PV modules end up higher than the developers’ assumptions when they negotiated contracts with utilities.

The International Trade Commission (ITC) accepted Suniva's petition and initiated an investigation last month. The injury determination is due by September 22 and a report to the President will follow by November 13.

(USD 1 = EUR 0.89)

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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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