Skip to main content

Workers install a solar panel in the Gansu province. Canadian manufacturers say cheap solar panels are being dumped into Canada.

REUTERS

A band of small Canadian solar panel manufacturers is banking on an upcoming trade decision in hopes of surviving an onslaught of low-priced Chinese imports.

The four Ontario companies say they hope a decision next week by Canada's International Trade Tribunal will uphold duties on imports they say are priced below the Chinese companies' actual cost of production.

"The best outcome for Ontario, for the entire solar community, is that there's a level playing field — whatever that is," says Geoff Atkins, who's in charge of business development for Silfab Solar in Mississauga.

Story continues below advertisement

"Obviously, if there are tariffs imposed that balance that playing field, that's certainly going to strengthen our position."

The counter argument: anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese imports would keep Canadian prices higher and could make it more difficult to eliminate the gap between the cost of producing solar power and the price of buying electricity off the power grid.

But Atkins and others in Canada's young solar manufacturing sector say Canada should follow the lead of the European Union and United States, which have already imposed tariffs on Chinese imports that allegedly violate international trading rules.

Most of the Canadian makers of photovoltaic modules, which are used in solar panels that convert the sun's rays into electricity, were created in Ontario within the last few years. They arrived as Ontario's provincial government was working to stimulate the adoption of wind and solar power by paying above-market prices for electricity created from those sources.

In the third phase of Ontario's feed-in-tariff program, or FIT 3.0, the domestic-content requirements were eliminated — removing one of the incentives for buying from Canadian producers and opening the market to imports from China.

"When you have a country like China with three times more capacity than the domestic market ... the risk of being absolutely eaten up is very, very high," says Martin Pochtaruk, president of Heliene Inc. in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., which employs more than 50 people.

Still, Pochtaruk says Heliene can survive if Canadian solar module prices are on par with those in the United States — as they have been since Canada imposed temporary duties on Chinese imports in March following a complaint filed in late 2014 in defence of Silfab, Heliene, Solgate and Eclipsall, which was acquired earlier this year by Strathcona Energy Group.

Story continues below advertisement

An investigation by Canada Border Services Agency alleged in early June that about half a dozen Chinese companies, and a China-based subsidiary of Canadian Solar International, were benefiting to varying degrees from government subsidies — in contravention of World Trade Organization agreements.

"We're obviously pleased with their findings," says Silfab's Atkins. "We believe it mimics what we experienced in the marketplace."

Canadian Solar International, a Nasdaq-listed company based in Guelph, Ont., declined to comment prior to a report from the trade tribunal, to be released by July 3, that will determine whether the CBSA can continue to charge provisional duties set in March. The law firm acting for most of the Chinese companies didn't respond to requests for comment.

Atkins also wouldn't speculate on what the tribunal would decide but said the future of Silfab's factory in Mississauga, which employs more than 125 people, could be in doubt if Canada doesn't follow the U.S. lead in imposing duties on the imports.

"We would be forced to look at other markets and, by being forced to look at other markets, we would likely be forced to evaluate where we're situated," Atkins said.

Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies