Months before the U.S. government slapped Chinese manufacturers with hefty tariffs on solar panels that were flooding the American market, at least one American stood – or rather sat – with the Chinese.
John Stanton, vice president of policy and markets with California-based SolarCity, defended Chinese manufacturers at a Jan. 22 U.S. International Trade Commission hearing to determine how the feds would respond to allegations that the Chinese government-backed companies had destroyed more than 2,000 U.S. jobs.
As one of the nation’s largest solar contractors and recipient of nearly $1 billion in tax subsidies and grants, SolarCity has imported millions of panels from Chinese companies during the past eight years in its quest for market dominance. The company’s unique leasing program leaves SolarCity as the owners of its customers’ rooftop systems, and that means SolarCity reaps the tax incentives.
Three other smaller American installation companies were also at the hearing to defend Chinese imports: Strata Solar, Real Goods Solar and Swinerton Renewable Energy. Strata’s website proclaims “Solar Energy = American Jobs.”
Many American companies haven’t been able to compete with counterparts that are underwritten and, in some cases, owned by the Chinese government.