Delays tied to the trade investigation threaten to slow President Joe Biden’s push to green the country’s power grids. The U.S. relies heavily on panels imported from Asia — and about three-quarters of solar companies surveyed by the Solar Energy Industries Association trade group said deliveries have been affected since the U.S. Commerce Department announced its investigation last month.
“If the Commerce Department were to find circumvention, we believe it would be unwinding a decade of trade practice,” Kirk Crews, NextEra’s chief financial officer, said during the company’s earnings call Thursday. “We are disappointed with the Commerce decision to conduct this investigation.”
NextEra’s shares slipped as much as 2.8% on Thursday, the most in intraday trading in more than a month.
The Commerce Department is investigating whether Chinese manufacturers are evading tariffs by sending components to other Asian nations for assembly before exporting the finished products. The U.S. depends on Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to meet much of its demand for new solar panels. About 75% of panels installed in the U.S. last year came from Southeast Asia, according to Raymond James.
NextEra’s announcement is the “first concrete data point” from the first-quarter earnings season confirming that the investigation has upended the U.S. solar industry, according to a research note Thursday from Credit Suisse.
A final determination from the Commerce Department is expected to be months away, throwing the industry into a state of uncertainty. A key issue: whether the U.S. imposes duties retroactively, said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James.
“It’s the uncertainty that’s causing the problems,” he said in an interview.