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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
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 Dow Corning
Dow Corning 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
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
About Hemlock Semiconductor Group
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.
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