U.S. Solar Trade Surplus With China Turns Into Gaping Deficit, Says Coalition of Manufacturers

Last summer, we wrote about a trade report from GTM Research showing that the U.S. had a $247 million solar trade surplus with China in 2010 — an unexpected tip of the scales that came mostly from exporting polysilicon and manufacturing equipment.

GTM analysts haven’t updated their study yet. But a coalition of American manufacturers just released its own report showing that the U.S. lost that surplus in 2011. By a lot.

According to the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM), the U.S. now has a $1.6 billion trade deficit with China. The group, which supports an anti-dumping complaint recently filed with the International Trade Commission, concludes that the deterioration of U.S. solar manufacturing due to unfair trade practices has turned America’s $1.9 billion global trade surplus into a $1.5 billion trade deficit.

Applying the same data sets that GTM Research used, CASM looked at the U.S. industry’s competitive position with China and the world.  The analysis shows that in 2011 the United States became a net solar importer from both.

The organization is using the study to highlight its belief that Chinese solar firms are dumping product into the U.S. market:

A leading cause of this reversal is a massive surge in Chinese exports of dumped and subsidized solar cells and modules, which, in 2011, more than doubled the totals of 2010, increasing from more than $1.2 billion to more than $2.8 billion. Further, exports to China of products for which the United States had a significant trade surplus in 2010 – polysilicon (the main raw material used to produce solar cells) and solar manufacturing equipment – declined precipitously in 2011, falling by $194 million and $170 million, respectively (a 21 percent combined decrease).

The CASM report comes on the heels of a report released by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, which found that the U.S. trade deficit for environmental goods grew by almost 90% in 2011 — a figure that includes both wind and solar technologies.

The solar industry is still waiting for an official ruling on whether or not Chinese solar companies have been unfairly subsidized. The Commerce Department was supposed to issue a decision last week on whether or not to enforce tariffs on Chinese solar equipment. But the decision has been delayed until later this month.

The solar trade issue has stirred a fierce debate within the industry, creating a rift between manufacturers struggling to compete with depressed panel prices and developers depend on those continued price reductions.


12 Responses to U.S. Solar Trade Surplus With China Turns Into Gaping Deficit, Says Coalition of Manufacturers

  1. Raul M. says:

    Unfairly subsidized – does that mean that the US Gov. should be subsidized by the Chinese solar firms or that the US solar firms should also be subsidized by the Chinese Gov.?
    As being in favor of solar elec., shouldn’t the US Gov. be subsidizing it’s own solar elec,?
    Maybe it’s that …

  2. John Tucker says:

    So that even reads like our polysilicon exports are no longer making up for the imports.

    Yes and while we are watching clean energy die including, solar, nuclear, wind, geothermal, battery power for transportation, etc… they are lining up to throw money at natural gas:

    Democrats Look To Add Natural Gas Subsidies To Transportation Bill [ ]

  3. Paul Magnus says:

    “we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet,” explaining that his new energy policy is to “aggressively develop our oil, our gas, our coal.”

    Why is he stealing Obama’s policy?

  4. Sasparilla says:

    Ahhhh, this is how (with the Republicans cheering them on) a foreign government dumps an industry (of the future) in a foreign country (United States) out of existence – your watching it happen folks.

    I was trying to remember what the direct Chinese government support for their solar industry was in 2010 (I think it was ~ $17 billion). Can’t imagine what it was in 2011.

    Just a few more years America, it won’t hurt much longer now, some more lobbying money to our politicians, let the Republicans lead the way here – and the solar industry in the US will be gone.

    Plus the Chinese said they’ll keep prices low (just like they did with the rare earths industry they dumped out of existence in the US a few years back).

    As noted the installation industry is loving these dumping prices and they’ll be around – at least till the Chinese can ship their own workers here for installations (which they do in other countries for certain technologies).

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    This just gives the Right a chance to kill two birds with one stone. Attack solar as part of the crusade against all renewables (a campaign that is cranking up in other Anglosphere dystopias like the UK and Australia)and attack China as part of the steadily growing but undeclared war to ‘.bring China down’, as your ex-Ambassador to China, Mr Huntsman, too candidly opined during one of the interminable Republican ‘debates’.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You’d almost swear that the Masters have a Death Wish.

  7. John Tucker says:

    I think anything that happened was always because some big energy lobby wanted it to.

    Even the kyoto protocol was probably for better or worse a result of the nuclear lobby.

    The last of kyoto just died where it was born.[ ] – Whether anyone admits it or not.

    Its not by chance the nuclear powerhouses countries became the leaders in the climate wars, and now gas has deposed nuclear with the help of the mega “greens” and is in full control.

  8. Raul M. says:

    Being in favor of solar elec., stilll don’t get the hang of arguing with the neighbors about them putting up to much solar elec.
    Good luck though figuring out how it all fits together.

  9. Leif says:

    Remember, if you intellect is ranked as one in a million here in the USA, there are a thousand others just as smart as you in China.

  10. gus says:

    Yeah, we should. But, more crucially, we need to stop shipping our mfg machinery & capacity overseas — or, more accurately, letting greedy corporations ship it there because it further pads their bottom line at the expense of American workers and envir laws.

  11. Greg says:

    The article ia a farce…cheap solar panels create American jobs…Solar world is a German company. The entire solar industry in the US is against duties on Chinese imports because the jobs are in the installation not the manufacturing. Te deficit in 2011 was created by the rush to be a part of the 1603 tax credit that was ending in 2011 which distorted the numbers. The move is a job killer because it increases the prices of putting up solar

  12. Raul M. says:

    Still sounds like US’s bad and us paying more foe solar.