Split View on Invetigation

An investigation now under way to see if Chinese solar panels are being dumped in this country is causing a split in the nascent solar industry in Canada.

After getting complaints from four Ontario-based solar-panel-making firms that said they are getting hurt by competition from cut-price imports, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) launched a complex process that will eventually decide if Chinese-made solar panels are being unfairly subsidized or dumped in Canada.

If they rule that is the case, and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal decides that Canadian firms are being harmed, a stiff duty could be imposed on Chinese panel imports. While that would help Canadian panel makers, it would add costs to companies that buy and install solar equipment in Canada.

“The industry is split on this issue,” said John Gorman, president of the Canadian Solar Industries Association, which represents the interests of both equipment makers and installers. “It could be divisive.”

The four companies that complained to the CBSA – Eclipsall Energy Corp., Heliene Inc., Silfab Ontario Ltd. and Solgate Inc. – say the unfair competition means they are losing sales and market share, and are under pressure to cut their prices.

For firms that install solar-power systems, however, the prospect of countervailing duties is a concern. Jared Donald, president of solar developer Conergy Canada, said companies like his want to put panels in place at the lowest possible cost. Equipment prices have been declining continuously, he said, and if new tariffs are added to imported panels “this has the possibility of taking a step back and having cost increases.” The drop in the Canadian dollar has already hurt the industry, Mr. Donald said, and new duties could add another layer of costs.