Commerce Ministry not to heed Renewable Energy Ministry’s requests against levy

Local solar equipment makers may get a helping hand from the Commerce Ministry, which is refusing to be influenced by the Renewable Energy Ministry’s request that dumping duties not be levied on imports from the US and China. According to a Commerce Ministry official, a decision on imposing penal duties on solar imports will be based entirely on what ongoing investigations reveal.

An anti-dumping probe, which is looking into whether foreign suppliers of solar thin-film and silicon PV cells are selling these products in India at prices lower that what they charge in their home markets, is nearing completion. If this is confirmed and it is proved that local industry is getting hurt, the erring importers will face anti-dumping duties.

“The determination of anti-dumping duties is a quasi-judicial process based on facts and figures. Opinions given by individual ministries outside this process do not matter at all,” the official told Business Line. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has argued that penal duties will raise the production cost of solar power.

Anti-dumping investigations into imported PV cells from China, Taiwan, Malaysia and the US were launched in January 2013 by the Directorate General of Anti-Dumping, which is under the Commerce Ministry. Representations were invited from local manufacturers as well as importers, and a report based on the findings is expected to be released on May 22.

Major solar manufacturers, including Tata Power, Moser Baer and Indosolar, have demanded that anti-dumping duties of 30-35 per cent be imposed on solar thin films and silicon PV cells as these were being sold at “ridiculously’’ low prices and bleeding the local industry.

Growing competition

Domestic manufacturers say they have suffered losses of over ₹1,000 crore, with many shutting shop or performing below capacity as prices fell by over 40 per cent due to competition from cheap imports. The MNRE, in a representation to the Commerce Ministry, said anti-dumping duties would increase the cost of solar power production by at least ₹1.6 crore a MW, adding that projects worth 4,000 MW tendered out recently and being built on imported content would get stuck.

Indian producers are, however, confident of meeting the demand for solar products in the country. “India has been supplying cells and modules to major countries in Europe, and Japan. Though crippled by dumping, the domestic industry has the resilience to bounce back within 45 days after receiving order confirmation,” the Indian Solar Manufacturers’ Association said in a statement.

(This article was published on May 14, 2014)
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