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Striking Balance: How the Solar Industry Benefits From the U.S. & China
Robert D. Hansen, president and CEO, Dow Corning Corporation
Stephanie A. Burns, chairman, Dow Corning Corporation
Andy Tometich, president, Hemlock Semiconductor Group
The trade case brought against Chinese solar manufacturers by U.S.
solar-panel producer SolarWorld and six other domestic equipment makers could
undermine the solar industry’s significant progress at the very moment it is
poised for success.
With a largely jobless recovery here at home and a Chinese economy that is
“cooling down,” a trade war over solar module production threatens both
nations’ economies and the global viability of the solar industry overall.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Commerce is investigating whether or not
it should impose preliminary tariffs in the case – this is occurring against
the backdrop of a growing chorus of political rhetoric. Meanwhile, China’s
Commerce Ministry is not standing idle – they are gearing up for action. It
appears they are serious about initiating their own measures in anticipation of
the U.S. advocating for trade remedies to be put in place.
At a time of economic dislocation and discontent, it is tempting to
politicize trade disputes. But no nation or industry “wins” when these disputes
escalate – and the unintended consequences of such an escalation will most
likely outweigh the larger, negative impact on this important relationship with
our largest trading partner.
The pending case raises concerns, but resolving this issue through an
adversarial confrontation will impede both countries’ abilities to benefit from
a growing solar market both in the U.S. and abroad. Such benefits are only
possible through lower prices catalyzed by healthy competition between global
manufacturers. Countries around the world realize the economic contributions
the solar industry can provide, and are supporting new technologies and
markets. This is not news. But to be clear: Competition and incentives need to
be fair for all industry players.
Our companies, Dow Corning Corporation and
Hemlock Semiconductor Group are among the world’s leading suppliers
of polysilicon and other key solar materials that power solar innovation.
Together, our common goal is to contribute to and support a thriving solar
industry. Our recent U.S. investments of more than $5 billion back up that
statement. We are expanding research, development and manufacturing capacity
for materials such as polysilicon to help meet growing global demand. Our
investments have made positive contributions toward getting the economy back on
track – creating thousands of high paying jobs in economically hard-hit states
like Michigan and Tennessee.
Further, our business analyses indicate that now is the time for America’s
solar industry to take off. The amount of new solar wattage installed in the
U.S. has been growing more than 70 percent per year since 2008. Last year
alone, the solar industry created approximately 100,000 jobs, an increase of
nearly 7 percent.
As the solar industry continues to mature, the steep decline in solar panel
prices have made solar energy affordable, delivering significant benefits for
consumers while encouraging the development of large-scale photovoltaic
projects. These installations, from residential rooftops to utility-scale solar
farms are helping the economy and the environment.
Continued investments made by domestic and foreign solar companies will
allow solar to play an increasingly pivotal role in our country’s energy mix.
And, as the solar industry continues to grow and achieve economies of scale, it
will further drive job creation in communities around the country, up and down
the value chain from manufacturing to installation.
The world wants and needs growing, sustainable and environmentally
beneficial sources of energy. To that end, a growing U.S. solar market is good
business for everyone – for our companies and dozens of other domestic
manufacturers; for distributors, developers, and installers; and for
households, small businesses and other enterprises.
In a down economy, the numbers help tell the tale: A recent Forbes
story notes that the U.S. was a $5.6 billion gross exporter in solar-related
products in 2010 – exporting $1.9 billion more than it imported – including net
exports of approximately $400 million to China.
The solar industry is ready for its moment in the sun: Here at home, we hope
fairness prevails so that the investigatory process proceeds without acrimony,
political overzealousness or protectionism; at stake are U.S. jobs, U.S.
exports, and U.S. consumer benefits for a strategically important U.S
About Hemlock Semiconductor Group
Hemlock Semiconductor Group (hscpoly.com) consists of several joint
venture companies owned by Dow Corning Corporation, Shin-Etsu Handotai and
Mitsubishi Materials Corporation. Hemlock Semiconductor is a leading provider
of polycrystalline silicon and other silicon-based products used in the
manufacturing of semiconductor devices and solar cells and modules. Hemlock
Semiconductor began its operations in 1961.
Follow Hemlock Semiconductor Group on Twitter: twitter.com/hscpoly
About Dow Corning
Dow Corning (dowcorning.com) provides
performance-enhancing solutions to serve the diverse needs of more than 25,000
customers worldwide. A global leader in silicones, silicon-based technology and
innovation, Dow Corning offers more than 7,000 products and services via
the company’s Dow Corning® and XIAMETER® brands. Dow Corning is
equally owned by The Dow Chemical Company and Corning, Incorporated. More than
half of Dow Corning’s annual sales are outside the United States.
Dow Corning’s global operations adhere to the
American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care® initiative, a stringent set
of standards designed to advance the safe and secure management of chemical
products and processes.
Follow Dow Corning on Twitter: twitter.com/dowcorning
Visit Dow Corning’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/dowcorningcorp