Feds launch wind tariff probe; AWEA warns of ‘bottlenecks’

Source: By David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, August 5, 2019

The federal government has launched a preliminary investigation into implementing wind tariffs, prompting the industry’s largest trade association to warn that new fees would double the pain caused by existing tariffs on Chinese steel.

The 1,000-member American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) made its case in testimony before the International Trade Commission (ITC) last week. It said the tariffs — requested by a coalition of tower manufacturers last month — would reverberate across the industry, raising the cost of wind power, dampening investment and causing cancellations of new projects.

Granting the petition “will just serve to add additional stress to the wind industry, jeopardizing additional growth,” Amy Farrell, AWEA’s senior vice president of government and public affairs, said in written testimony.

The Wind Tower Trade Coalition prompted the review from the ITC and the Commerce Department by charging in a petition that tower components from Canada, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam are being “dumped” in the United States, or sold at less than fair value, to the detriment of U.S. tower manufacturers (Energywire, July 17).

The ITC investigation could eventually culminate in an anti-dumping order from the Commerce Department. It’s tentatively scheduled to announce an initial finding in late August, according to a spokesperson.

The probe will seek to establish whether there is a “reasonable indication” that U.S. manufacturers could be “materially injured” by the turbine imports. The ITC would need to undertake a final-phase inquiry, and the Commerce Department would have to establish that the “dumping” was occurring before the latter agency issues any action.

It comes as trade disputes between the United States and China escalate. The Trump administration announced yesterday a new round of tariffs that would extend the scope of import duties to nearly all Chinese goods.

Since 2014, imports have made up about 21% of the total wind towers installed, according to Farrell’s testimony.

But through 2019 and 2020, AWEA expects project developers to require about 5,200 turbines and towers — well above the 3,200-tower capacity attributed to domestic manufacturers in 2017.

“Thus, if the petition were granted, the lack of domestic manufacturing capacity would increase bottlenecks for the wind industry,” said Farrell.

It would also push the cost of towers up 10% to 18%, she said, and cause over 1,300 turbines to be abandoned.

It would also compound the impact of other recent tariffs and the planned phaseout of production tax credits at year’s end, she added.

Consulting firm Wood Mackenzie released a report this week stating that the timing of the petition was “problematic” and could “negatively impact the cost position of new unit installs in 2020 and beyond.”

Separately, the ITC has begun to review the solar industry’s response to a 30% tariff on foreign-made photovoltaic cells — a measure that solar industry representatives blame for lost jobs and canceled projects.

The commission said July 25 that it was monitoring “the progress and specific efforts made by workers and firms in the domestic industry to make a positive adjustment to import competition.”