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US Solar CEOs' Letter Urges President to Focus on Solar Energy Trade with China

Xi Jinping, China's vice-president and the expected successor to current President Hu Jintao, is in the nation's capital today to meet with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Their discussions are bound to cover a wide range of topics, and rising trade tensions is certain to be among them - particularly with regard to Chinese silicon solar PV subsidies, its export-driven trade policy and its tightly controlled currency management system.

Keen to see the solar PV trade dispute settled through diplomatic negotiations rather than through international trade legal channels, 45 US solar energy company CEOs sent a letter to the President strongly urging him to "discuss the mutual benefits of renewable energy development, especially solar photovoltaic (PV) technology" in his meeting with Vice President Xi.

Averting a solar trade war

The US solar energy company CEOs represent a cross-section of the solar PV value and supply chain from polysilicon producers and silicon solar PV wafer and cell fabricators to solar PV module manufacturers, solar system installers and project developers. Signatories include the CEOs of AES Solar, MEMC/SunEdison, GT Advanced Technologies, REC Silicon, Sungevity and SunRun.

Together we employ thousands of workers. Our companies manufacture polysilicon, the raw material for most of the solar cells sold all over the world. Our companies manufacture machinery and equipment used to produce solar cells and to utilize the electricity they generate. Our companies develop solar projects, large and small.

We install solar panels on residential and commercial structures and build utility-scale power plants. In all of these activities, our companies employ thousands of skilled workers, all of whom are proud to be a part of such an important industry, especially as we face constraints in existing energy resources," the letter states.

US solar a success...so far

The US solar industry has been a success story to date, especially against a backdrop of historic economic and financial system problems, and the CEOs are clearly concerned that the increasing number of trade disputes between China and the US will bring this to an abrupt end.

President Obama's discussions with Vice President Xi are "especially important in light of the potential for a mutually destructive trade war as both nations consider tariffs and duties on each others imports of solar technology,” according to the letter.

While US job creation rose less than 1 percent last year, solar energy industry jobs rose 7 percent, and the industry expects that to surge 24 percent in 2012. The US solar energy company CEOs also note that the US had a net $400 million solar energy trade surplus with China in 2010.

"We believe that you and Vice President Xi have a unique opportunity to avoid such a trade war and find agreement that benefits the solar industries in both countries. Mr. President, we very much appreciate all of your hard work and policies in support of renewable energy and hope that together America and China mobilize to expand the use of solar power," the letter concludes.

Andrew Burger headshotAndrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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