Feds approve tariffs on imported wind towers

Source: By David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Sunday, August 2, 2020

Federal trade officials have signed off on new tariffs on wind tower imports, setting up the Trump administration to finalize them over the objections of the wind industry’s main trade association.

The tariffs would affect utility-scale wind towers from Canada, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam, which accounted for over three-fourths of all the towers imported last year, or about $376 million worth, according to the Commerce Department.

In its decision yesterday, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that six U.S.-based manufacturers had been “materially injured” by competing versions from those four countries sold at “less than fair value.” In the case of Canada, Indonesia and Vietnam, imports were also being subsidized by the producers’ home countries.

Commerce “will issue” duties on imports from all four countries, said the USITC. Tariffs are likely to range from 5% to 66% of the products’ value, in accordance with an earlier finding from Commerce (Energywire, July 2).

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) objected to the decision, saying it disagreed that imports had hurt domestic manufacturers of wind towers.

“Today’s decision will increase the cost of American wind energy, hampering wind development, job creation and the domestic tower manufacturers themselves,” said Adam Stern, research and analytics manager at AWEA.

Five of the six USITC commissioners voted in favor of the tariffs, according to the USITC. That included its Obama-appointed chair and two other Democratic members.

Timothy Fox, vice president at consultancy ClearView Energy Partners, likened the case to tariffs on solar products imposed in 2012 and 2014. “Notwithstanding President Trump’s activist trade agenda, we regard the wind tower petition as a case of aggrieved domestic producers relying on traditional trade tools to realign the global marketplace,” he wrote in an email to E&E News.

The case originated from a petition brought last summer by the Wind Tower Trade Coalition, a two-manufacturer group that said its towers were facing unfair competition from foreign imports. A previous four-member configuration of the coalition had prevailed in similar cases under the Obama administration.

Additional duties would raise capital costs for wind projects by about 2% to 4%, wrote Fox. But that cost increase was a “secondary concern” for the wind industry.

Declining demand among end users, increased generation from existing wind projects and lower wholesale prices were likely to “challenge new renewable power buildout,” he wrote.

The USITC said it would issue a full report explaining its findings on Sept. 2.