Uncertainty grows as solar panel anti dumping report delayed again

solar panels and a no dumping sign

Will the next Great Big Tax, be on cheap Chinese solar panels?

The long-delayed anti-dumping investigation into Chinese solar panels is having the desired effect of disrupting the solar industry in Australia, whatever the outcome.

Desired that is by the fossil fuel giants and their fans in federal politics.

One sure way to kill a fledgling industry is to manufacture uncertainty. Such has been the case with government support in the solar power industry. The on again, off again support mechanisms and half-hearted policies in general seem designed to keep the solar sector in a semi-permanent state of uncertainty. This has the effect of killing off investments because of the inability to guarantee investors a future “level playing field”.

Of course this is a lucrative strategy if you happen to have a heavy investment in fossil fuels.

Such is the case with the delay over the Anti-Dumping Commission’s report into cheap Chinese solar panels, the release of which has been delayed until April 7. Citing a “continuing heavy workload” and “complexities associated with the investigation” the commission requested an extension of time which was granted by the Parliamentary Secretary to The Minister of Industry and Science.

The commission had been expected to hand down its initial report in September 2014 but has been given two previous extensions of 65 and 120 days.

In order to prove that dumping has occurred, the commission must prove that the panels have been sold on the Australian market at below the Chinese market cost price. Fair enough then, to investigate this may take some time however the more suspicious (or astute) of our readers may have noticed that the extensions granted to the Anti-Dumping Commission seem to have led to the effect noted above: that of creating uncertainty in the market place.

Also if — as one presumes the feds hope — the Anti-Dumping Commission delivers the “correct” decision for Tony, Greg et al, there will be celebrations in the corridors of Parliament House as such a result is almost certain to push Chinese solar panels sky high.

Nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned protectionism to look after your fossil fuel mates (ahem, some may say).

The outlook for the price of Chinese solar panels is grim if the Anti-Dumping Commission finds that the product has been “dumped” on Australian shores. However exactly what will happen next is anyone’s guess. Nigel Morris says there is a possibility of a 5 percent rise across the board although admits that this is just speculation. The second question that remains unanswered is what if China decides to retaliate against the raised tariffs? A trade war with China is surely the last thing we need as our wider economy slows.

Would it be too cynical to suggest that by delaying its anti-dumping investigation into Chinese solar panels, the damage has already been done? Perhaps. Like the delay over the evisceration of the RET, the government seems quite happy to see the legislation tied up in the Senate, again creating that uncertainty effect to the detriment of the solar industry.

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