Cornell Study Confirms: Importing Chinese Solar Exacerbates Climate Change

Boosting Domestic Solar Manufacturing Would Gut Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 30%

WASHINGTON — A recent study by Cornell University researchers confirms that reshoring the solar supply chain and boosting domestic solar manufacturing would significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. “If reshored PV manufacturing is achieved by 2035, the estimated GHG emissions and energy consumption from panel production would be 30% and 13% lower, respectively, than having relied on trading partners as in 2020,” the report states. “If the reshored manufacturing target is met by 2050, the climate impacts and energy use would then be reduced by 33% and 17%.”

As NBC recently reported, “research from the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air and GEM published late last month showed China approved the highest number of new coal-fired plants since 2015 last year.” Incredibly, “Beijing authorized 106 gigawatts of new coal power capacity in 2022, four times higher than a year earlier and the equivalent of 100 large-fired power plants, the research said.”

“This study is yet another data point proving that importing Chinese solar—which is made from coal-fired power plants and Uyghur forced labor—is bad for the environment, unethical, and harms American manufacturers that are forced to compete against China’s illegal trade violations,” said CPA Chair Zach Mottl. “If the Biden administration, and its Chinese apologists in the Climate Policy Office, are serious about addressing climate change, it would immediately revoke the Solar Emergency Declaration and take additional steps to support American solar manufacturers.”

CPA has consistently called for reshoring the solar supply chain and boosting domestic solar manufacturing, and pointed out the dangers of continued reliance on Chinese solar imports.

Last year the Biden administration took unprecedented steps to protect Chinese solar manufacturers that are illegally violating U.S. trade law. Biden’s Solar Emergency Declaration effectively neutralizes the Department of Commerce’s investigation into whether Chinese solar manufacturers are illegally circumventing antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) orders. In December, Commerce issued a preliminary determination that found that Chinese companies operating in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia are illegally circumventing existing antidumping and countervailing (AD/CVD) duty orders on solar cells and modules from China.

Instead of supporting robust enforcement of U.S. trade laws, the emergency declaration gives Chinese manufacturers a free pass to illegally circumvent AD/CVD orders for 24 months and protects them from retroactive duties — regardless of what Commerce finds in its final investigation. This is not merely a 2 year tariff suspension, however. In fact, it is a complete “get out of jail free card” for China forever. It allows Chinese solar manufacturers to avoid tariffs forever by merely certifying that they produce wafers outside of China — something the Chinese will easily be able to do prior to the end of the two-year suspension.

Biden’s emergency declaration came after intense lobbying by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a trade association that was exposed as a front for Chinese solar manufacturers and whose members have been implicated in the use of forced labor in Xinjiang. Last year, the Commerce Department announced it was investigating three of SEIA’s Chinese members for illegal trade activity. 

In a scathing report released last year, The American Prospect exposed SEIA as failing to “disclose that among its leading members are the same Chinese-owned companies that are implicated not only in the investigation of illegal tariff evasion, but in the use of slave labor to produce solar components and coal-fired energy to power the factories.” Additionally, The American Prospect unmasked that SEIA’s “main strategy for the past ten years has been to lament restrictions on Chinese solar production.”

The American Prospect reports, “SEIA’s membership includes U.S. subsidiaries of Chinese producers JinkoSolar, JA Solar, Trina Solar, BYD, and LONGi Solar, which are the dominant solar component manufacturers in the world.”


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