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USA Keeps the Pressure on China with Tariffs on Bifacial Solar Panel Imports

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Solar energy was one of the first fronts of the trade war between the USA and China which had started as early as 2016. Under Trump, the war has not only expanded into many fronts but also deepened in the solar sector where high safeguard blanket duties were imposed not only for solar panel and cell imports from China, but a whole lot of other countries as an arcane law was used to blanket duties on other countries.

However, the USA under Section 201 allowed certain exemptions for less used solar technologies with the bifacial solar panel being exempt from USA duties on imports. This was done after Sunpower asked for this exemption for its high-efficiency solar cells and panels. However, this exemption turned out to be a golden loophole for Chinese companies who suddenly found that they could export loads of solar panels using bifacial technology to the United States as no duties meant that suddenly the Chinese made bifacial solar panels had become very cost competitive in LCOE terms, to the normal solar panels made in the USA. In the last two years, the imports of bifacial solar panels have surged as large utility-scale developers made use of this exemption.

But now this exemption has again been overturned with some USA solar manufacturers protesting against the exemption. To be honest, bifacial solar technology is not really some pathbreaking new technology and requires only a few tweaks. Companies making solar products in the USA were getting hammered as the labor and other costs are much higher as compared to Asian countries. Without the benefit of duties, the cost competitiveness of the USA made solar products was just not going to be there. While the USA solar developer lobby is again trying to get this exemption back, the Trump administration is unlikely to budge especially with the tensions with China again flaring up in the aftermath of the COVID crisis. Also, read the Comprehensive COVID-19 Impact on Indian Clean Energy Sector.

If anything, the rules regarding imports of Chinese solar products and any other products for that matter is going to get even more difficult with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle becoming more and more anti-Chinese with the USA federal elections coming up in a few months. Even the USA public sentiment is becoming very xenophobic with most of the ire directed towards China which is thought to have intentionally spread the virus due to its actions/ inactions.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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