The latest salvo in the ongoing clean energy trade dispute between the US and China has been launched.
After an investigation undertaken in late 2011, China is demanding the US stop supporting six clean energy programs in states including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Ohio, or face unspecified penalties, reports Reuters.
“The Commerce Ministry will adopt relevant legal measures, demands that the United States cancel parts of the measures that violate World Trade Organization rules and give Chinese renewable energy firms fair treatment,” the ministry says in a statement on its Web site.
What’s different about China’s latest statement is that it applies to a broad range of US measures that support solar, wind and hydroelectric programs.
And for now, it’s just a statement, since no specific details have emerged about what penalties might be imposed if China isn’t satisfied with the US response. Or when.
While this plays out, China is also investigating whether it should impose duties on polysilicon imports from the US and South Korea in response to suggestions that the polysilicon is sold at artificially low prices in China.
American manufacturers exported about $873 million of polysilicon to China last year, nearly as much in dollar terms as the value of the solar panels that China shipped to the US.
Last year, the price of US polysilicon imports into China dropped more than 67% and many Chinese firms went out of business, as a result.
The probe is expected to take about a year.
The US set hefty tariffs on solar panels back in May after its own investigation found evidence on unfair trade practices by China. Despite that measure the prices for Chinese solar panels have still fallen about 20%.
SolarWorld (SWV.DE) and 24 other European solar manufacturers brought a similar petition to the European Commission in July.
The US wind energy industry has also filed similar complaints related to steel towers for wind turbines, and in July the Department of Commerce said its investigation says that tariffs of 14-26% are warranted on that equipment. The US imported about $222 million of wind towers from China last year, according to Commerce.
Here’s more of the latest news on the trade disputes in both the US and Europe: