The United States has exempted India from the levy of a 30 percent anti-dumping duty on its solar imports. India is one among the hundred countries including Brazil, South Africa, and Turkey that are exempt from paying the anti-dumping duty.
The tariff will gradually decline in five percent increments over a four-year period to settle at 15 percent in 2022. India’s exemption was included as part of the U.S. International Trade Commission’s ruling in the Suniva and Solar World trade case filed under Section 201.
The exemption could benefit Indian manufacturers who already export to the U.S. as well as those who are planning to do so. Since the anti-dumping duty will remain in force for a period of four years, the Indian solar module industry could have some meaningful opportunities to make its presence felt in the U.S. market.
However, the potential market for Indian panels is expected to be small compared to the overall size of the U.S. solar market. According to the ruling, imports from Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) countries will be limited to 3 percent per country (crystalline silicon) and 9 percent total for all exempt countries. Additional details are expected to come out in the next few weeks.
As an example, if 10 – 11 GW of solar modules are imported into the U.S., the three percent cap would limit the potential market for Indian manufacturers to approximately 300 – 330 MW of tariff-free module exports. Any exports beyond the three percent limit could incur tariffs based on the recent ruling.
Much of the details are not yet known and are expected to be clarified soon.
More importantly, based on current module prices, it is crucial to consider how much of a cost advantage Indian manufacturers will ultimately have after the U.S. imposes tariffs on Chinese panels. A 30 percent anti-dumping duty is expected to create an approximate ~$0.10 (~₹6.37)/W rise in module costs in the U.S. Currently, the average selling price (ASP) of Indian modules that use Chinese cells are about $0.38 – $0.40 (~₹26.04-27.41)/W (while DCR module ASPs using Indian made cells is about $0.42 – $0.43 (~₹28.78-29.46)/W. Meanwhile, ASPs of Chinese panels shipping to the U.S. are approximately in the $0.30/W range. With an additional 10 cents of tariff, the difference between Indian and Chinese modules could still be very close. Going into next year, the difference will get closer as the tariff level steps down by 5 percent.
Comparatively, the domestic market is going to be much larger for Indian manufacturers especially if India’s proposed anti-dumping or safeguard duties are imposed. That said, the lure of the U.S. market with higher margins will be strong in contrast to razor thin margins at home. Many manufacturers have already been exporting small quantities to the U.S. for some time now.
According to the Mercom India Manufacturing Tracker, India’s module manufacturing capacity on paper is approximately 10 GW and real operational capacity is closer to 4 GW, while cell manufacturing capacity on paper is 3 GW with operational capacity is pegged at 1.5 GW.
With all of the uncertainties surrounding trade in the solar industry, one thing is clear — it is not wise to depend a lot on any foreign market.
With the India U.S. DCR WTO case still pending, it can be assumed that solar trade activity will be closely watched by U.S. and Indian trade authorities.
Raj is a recognized thought leader in clean energy markets where his work has influenced policies worldwide. He has a deep understanding of regulatory policy and clean energy markets and his market and opinion pieces are regularly published on both MercomIndia.com and other leading publications globally. Raj is also a regular speaker and presenter on clean energy policy and finance topics at conferences worldwide. Raj attended the KLE College of Science in Bangalore, India for physics and chemistry, and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hotel and Institutional Management from Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island. More articles from Raj Prabhu.