The US has voted to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese solar panels, with duties expected to range between 31 and 250 per cent.

The decision was taken after the US commerce department found China had dumped solar products on the US for less than the cost of manufacture.

Solar panels
There were fears the move could lead to a trade backlash from China and even possibly a broader US-Chinese trade war.

China has protested in the past at American accusations of unfair pricing and threatened to take America to the international trade court or WTO.

Chinese government subsidies helped drive down the price of solar panels by 80 per cent over the last five years, and by 40 per cent in the last year alone. The price drops drove some US solar panel makers – such as Solyndra – to collapse.

“Today’s decision is expected to have an impact on the US marketplace for Chinese manufacturers since it will begin to remove the advantage they have had as a result of their illegal trade practices,” the Coalition for American Solar Panel Manufacturing said in a statement. The statement went on: “However, it will not disrupt solar growth or solar installations in the United States.”

Jigar Shah, who heads the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy, told reporters the ruling will mean higher prices for consumers and will set back the adoption of solar.

Suntech, the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels, which also operates a panel plant in Arizona, denied it sold below its cost of production.

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