A low-key investment firm more accustomed to financing cement mixers, dump trucks, office furniture, and helicopters is emerging as the funding source behind a tariff case that could sink much of the United States solar industry.
But Jeremiah Silkowski, CEO of SQN Capital Management, is convinced he’s on a mission to save the country’s solar manufacturing base. “We are a plain vanilla asset finance firm,” he told Bloomberg. “We got involved in this because we honest to God believe we are protecting the solar industry. If somebody doesn’t draw the line here and fight, it’s over.”
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SQN had floated a US$50 million loan to Suniva Inc. before the Georgia-based manufacturer declared bankruptcy in April. Now, SQN is bankrolling Suniva’s campaign to persuade the Trump administration to declare tariffs against less expensive solar imports from Asia.
“Most of the industry has lined up against them, arguing the federal trade case threatens to double the price of solar panels and drag down installations,” Bloomberg notes. The case is expected to be decided by the U.S. International Trade Commission this Friday.
Suniva is claiming that nearly 30 U.S. solar cell and module producers have been harmed or driven out of business over the last five years by low-cost imports. The company’s opponents say rooftop installers, solar farm developers, and other businesses that employ 85% of the industry’s 260,000 workers will be placed at a disadvantage if the tariff attempt succeeds.
One “wrinkle” for Suniva, Bloomberg notes, is that 64% of the company is owned by Hong Kong-based Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., which bought in in 2015 to help Suniva expand its operations.
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