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China: Solar Firms Face More Penalties

It has been a tough spring for China’s solar power industry and the summer is not looking any better. In May, Chinese solar companies were implicated in a hacking scheme allegedly run by the People’s Army. Tuesday, the Commerce Department levied steep tariffs against them for taking government subsidies to undercut U.S. competitors.

The roots of the solar trade war go back to at least 2011 when the American subsidiary of German-owned SolarWorld first complained to the Commerce Department that Chinese competitors were not playing fair. To level the playing field, the U.S. slapped tariffs of 24 to 36 percent on solar cells imported from China.

Rather than pay the tariffs, Chinese manufacturers seized the advantage of a loophole in the Commerce Department order. It only covered individual solar cells, not the panels that the cells go in to.

The tariffs vary from company to company. Suntech Power got hit the hardest with a 35 percent surcharge on its panels. Most other panel makers in China will pay nearly 27 percent. Trina Solar will pay an 18.5 percent tariff.

The other side is led by the Coalition for Affordable Energy. It represents solar energy advocates and companies that install solar panels on homes and businesses. They say Chinese competition keeps solar energy affordable and will grow the market. In the face of more tariffs against Chinese solar firms, they worry that consumers are the ones who will pay the penalty.

(guardianlv.com  Edited by Topco)