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Removing the bifacial module exclusion under Section 201 is now changing module prices.   “I am all in favor of growing the American economy and engaging in trade with the world, but not at the expense of American workers.”  — Unknown

Since President Biden took office, companies have announced more than $17 billion and 335 gigawatts of manufacturing investment throughout the solar supply chain, with enough announced investment in solar modules to power 18 million homes. The announced solar module manufacturing capacity has grown to more than 125 gigawatts, compared to 7 gigawatts of manufacturing capacity before the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. American manufacturing is powering a boom in solar deployment, which has doubled since President Biden took office and reached record highs last year, with 32.4 gigawatts of solar capacity installed in 2023, a more than 50 percent increase over 2022 installations. 

Please note that 2022 had delivery issues because customs stopped shipments from entering the US and locked them in their warehouses. I see this as an unfair comparison. I expect there will be an increase of 20+% in project development from 2023 to 2024. Also, I believe that, in the future, module availability at its lower pricing will be part of the past after June 6, 2024. 

President Biden believes that American workers and manufacturers can compete with anyone—if the competition is fair. Earlier this week, President Biden directed his U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to increase tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 on $18 billion of imports from China to protect American workers and businesses – including by doubling the tariff rate on solar cells and modules from 25% to 50%.What the Biden Administration is not considering is that anything manufactured in the US is more expensive than in China or Southeast Asia for a multitude of different reasons, such as materials costs, labor, energy, production and management experience, etc. In the case of glass, any glass manufacturing will take a minimum of 4 years based on glass suppliers considering the possibility of manufacturing solar glass in the US. 

The announcement of new actions to strengthen American solar manufacturing. Removal of the bifacial module exclusion under Section 201. Bifacial solar panels generally used in utility-scale solar projects are not subject to safeguard tariffs under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. Since the previous Administration implemented this exclusion, imports of bifacial panels have surged, now making up nearly all US solar panel imports and undercutting the effectiveness of the Section 201 safeguard. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing its plans to remove this exclusion immediately, offering US Solar manufacturers increased Section 201 tariff protection from unfair imports. Importers with pre-existing contracts for bifacial solar modules to be delivered within 90 days of removing the exclusion can certify those contracts to continue using the exclusion for that period. 

They are ending the solar bridge and cracking down on stockpiling. In June 2022, President Biden initiated a temporary, 24-month bridge to facilitate certain imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam duty-free to ensure robust deployment while the domestic solar manufacturing base ramped up. Since then, US solar manufacturing and deployment have both grown dramatically. As the President has previously committed, the bridge will end as scheduled on June 6, 2024, and producers in Southeast Asia circumventing antidumping and countervailing duties on solar manufacturers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be subject to those duties. Additionally, in implementing the solar bridge, the Department of Commerce requires that panels imported duty-free must be installed within 180 days to prevent stockpiling. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that it will vigorously enforce this provision by requiring importers to provide the CBP with a certification of solar module utilization with detailed information about the modules deployed.  

Managing the tariff-rate quota for solar cells under Section 201 to support expanded solar manufacturing. Currently, there is a 5-gigawatt tariff-rate quota for imported solar cells under Section 201. The Administration will closely monitor the level of imported solar cells used to manufacture panels in the US and will work to raise the quota by 7.5 gigawatts if imports approach the current quota level to ensure domestic module manufacturing continues to grow. At the same time, manufacturers scale production throughout the supply chain. 

What does this mean to developers, investors, EPCs, and installers? You can expect the prices of solar PV and thin film to increase. I do not see how, in 2025, there will be enough modules available even with India not having additional tariffs added to their production and First Solar increasing their production. Other countries are now involved with module assembly, but few companies outside Asia produce poly and wafers. In a couple of years, we will have enough cell production in the US to keep up with the growth. 

I suggest that companies that are sleeping on developing or completing their projects should buy equipment now. If they are waiting for prices to get to the bottom, buy now, as you have already missed buying at the lowest price. As of last week, I have seen pricing jumps of 3 to 7 cents a watt, depending on the brand.
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