In the most recent shot fired in the trade war over solar panels between the United States and China, last week solar panel manufacturer Energy Conversion Devices, through its liquidating trust filed an antitrust lawsuit against Chinese companies Trina Solar Limited, Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited, Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd., and their U.S. affiliates, seeking over $950,000,000 in damages.
The case filed on October 4, 2013 by liquidating trustee, John Madden, in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, claims the object of the Chinese companies’ illegal actions was to drive established solar industry leader Energy Conversion Devices out of business.
Energy Conversion Devices alleges that the Chinese companies agreed they would drive American solar panel producers from the market. As specifically alleged in the complaint, the Chinese companies, in furtherance of their scheme, agreed to fix prices, and coordinated a plan to “dump” inferior solar panels in the American market at unreasonably low and below-cost prices.
Before the Energy Conversion Devices bankruptcy, it was a major player in the commercial and industrial rooftop solar market, achieving over $1 billion in sales employing more than 2,500 people before February 2012 when the company sought bankruptcy protection and ultimately was forced to liquidate. The complaint charges that the Chinese companies flooded the American market with their inferior flat photovoltaic panels, weakening Energy Conversion Device’s position until it was ultimately eliminated entirely and also eliminating almost the entire American solar panel manufacturing industry.
The efforts to eliminate America’s solar industry, however, have not gone unnoticed by the U.S. Government. The Department of Commerce has already determined that Chinese companies, including these defendants dumped solar panels in the American market at less than fair value such that it was necessary to impose massive import duties of as much as 46% in an attempt to even the playing field for the few remaining American solar panel manufacturers that have not already been driven out of business.
No doubt, these governmental determinations are of little comfort to former owners and employees of Energy Conversion Devices, whose only hope of redress at this point is this lawsuit. Energy Conversion Devices seeks compensation for the loss of the more than $950,000,000, the book value of the business the Chinese destroyed.
However the litigation ultimately resolves, the American photovoltaic manufacturing industry will never be the same.