Europe, China strengthen renewable energy ties after US exits global climate accord

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President Trump has suggested the U.S. could negotiate a new international climate agreement but global support for the Paris accord remains strong. (Image credit: AndrewSoundarajan)

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EU, China sign energy cooperation agreements after Trump withdraws US from climate pact

The European Union (EU) and China have reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change after President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the accord.

The U.S. will cease implementation of the global agreement "and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country," Trump said in a statement June 1.

"This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund which is costing the United States a vast fortune," the President said.

The U.S. could negotiate its way back into a global climate agreement "under the terms that are fair to the United States and its workers," he noted.

At an EU-China summit on June 2, leaders confirmed they would continue to implement the Paris Agreement and agreed to strengthen ties in renewable energy, the European Commission (EC) said.

Representatives from EU and China signed an energy cooperation roadmap to work towards goals such as increasing renewable energy capacity in China and strengthening ties in policy development, the EC said.


                                    Solar demand forecast by country

In response to Trump’s announcement, the EC said the Paris agreement, signed by 195 countries, will endure.

"The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change. Europe will lead through ambitious climate policies and through continued support to the poor and vulnerable," the Commission said.

The Paris Agreement is "fit for purpose" and is not prescriptive, allowing the signed-up countries to chart their own course towards the objectives, the EC said.

"The EU will strengthen its existing partnerships and seek new alliances from the world's largest economies to the most vulnerable island states. This partnership will of course include the many U.S. businesses, citizens and communities that have voiced their support for Paris and are taking ambitious climate action," it said.

US renewable supporters defiant

More than 1,200 U.S. governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities signed a declaration agreement on June 5 to ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions after the U.S. withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Signatories of the "We are still in" declaration included leaders from 125 cities, 9 states, 902 businesses and investors, and 183 colleges and universities. Participating cities and states represent 120 million Americans and contribute $6.2 trillion to the U.S. economy, and include cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Houston as well as smaller cities like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Dubuque, Iowa.

"The signers all understand that the Paris Agreement is a blueprint for job creation, stability and global prosperity and that accelerating the United States’ clean energy transition is an opportunity - not a liability - to create jobs, spur innovation, promote trade and ensure American competitiveness," the statement said.

"By declaring that “we are still in,” the signatories are putting the best interests of their constituents, customers, students and communities first while assuring the rest of the world that American leadership on climate change extends well beyond the federal government," it said.

The U.S. Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) said the U.S. solar industry will continue to add jobs and reduce carbon emissions despite the U.S. withdrawal from the global climate pact.

"It’s been encouraging to see that corporate leaders and many state and local governments are committed to deploying more solar, and frankly we do not think the decision necessarily impedes solar growth and job creation," SEIA said in a statement.

U.S. solar firms predict employment in the solar sector will rise by 10% in 2017 to around 286,000 workers, following a record 25% rise in 2016, according to the Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census 2016, published February 7.

U.S. solar industry employment was estimated at 260,077 at the end of 2016, following the largest annual growth since the census began in 2010. In comparison, jobs in the wider U.S. economy rose just 1.5%.

                                US solar employment growth by sector

Source: Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census 2016.

US government to review import tariff case in threat to industry

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has decided to review import tariff laws to protect U.S. solar manufacturers in a case which could significantly impact U.S. solar industry activity.

The commission will review a request by Suniva, a bankrupt Chinese-owned manufacturer of solar cells and panels in the U.S., for higher tariffs on imported products to fend off low-priced foreign competition, the World Trade Organisation said May 29.

Suniva argues that low-priced panels from Asia are damaging the U.S. solar manufacturing industry and has sought support under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, last used in 2002 to protect the steel industry.

The company has called for an initial tariff on solar panels of $00.40 per watt and a minimum price for modules of $00.78/W. This would roughly double the price of solar modules in the U.S. and significantly impact the competitiveness of solar power projects.

Absent of any settlement with Suniva, the ITC will make recommendations to the Trump administration by late October and the President would make the final decision on the matter.

“The potential damage to the solar industry as a result of this [case] could kill many thousands of American jobs and put a stop to billions of dollars in private investment," the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) said in a statement.

Suniva's proposed tariff would cut U.S. solar market activity in 2018-21 by about 60%, according to IHS Markit, the research group.

Many U.S. companies have opposed the tariff measures and some market participants believe it will be difficult for Suniva to persuade the ITC that it is "representative" of the solar industry, the Financial Times reported last month.

Chinese module factory in Turkey signs 300 MW of supply deals

Shanghai Aerospace Automobile Electromechanical (HT-SAAE) has secured over 300 MW of supply contracts for its new PV module and cells factory in Turkey, the company said in a statement May 31.

The factory, opened at the start of this year, can produce 600 MW of PV modules and 300 MW of PV cells annually. The facility will create around 500 jobs and is an example of China's assertion in global solar power manufacturing.

"We chose Turkey as the home for our overseas facility for its location and booming PV market. As a transcontinental country in Eurasia, it is like a corridor through which we can get to both Europe and the United States," Ruan Zhongli, vice president of PV business at HT-SAAE, said.

The facility was established through a cooperation agreement between China and Turkey and is in line with China's Belt and Road initiative to support new manufacturing bases along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road running through Southeast Asia and East Africa, HT-SAAE said.

HT-SAAE has developed a completely integrated PV industry supply chain, including polysilicon, wafers, solar cells, PV modules and PV systems.

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