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US Reliant on Chinese Polysilicon

The three largest manufacturers of polysilicon in the United States stressed today that Chinese tariffs imposed on U.S.-made polysilicon over the past five years have put the industry at risk, making the U.S. effectively reliant on China for this critical material.

During a meeting with the U.S. House Manufacturing Caucus at the Cannon House Office Building, leaders from Hemlock Semiconductor Operations (HSC), REC Silicon and Wacker Chemie AG shared with members of Congress the effect the Chinese tariffs have had since they were imposed in 2014. U.S. polysilicon exports to China have dropped by nearly 90%, from $1 billion in 2011 to $107 million in 2018.

Polysilicon is a fundamental building block for the semiconductor and solar industries, used to make ingots and wafers for solar cells and the integrated circuits that power everything from smartphones to autonomous vehicles and electronics. The U.S. polysilicon industry represents over $10 billion in capital investment and employs thousands in high-skilled, high-wage jobs.

“Preserving U.S. production capacity is vital for maintaining U.S. competitive advantages in critical defense, energy and innovation industries,” said Phil Dembowski, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer of Michigan-based HSC. “Through these tariffs, China is effectively trying to corner the world market on this important building block for the solar and electronics industries.”

REC Silicon produces polysilicon at a plant in Butte, Mont., but was forced to shutter its $1.7 billion plant in Moses Lake, Wash., in July because China has effectively shut out U.S. imports. HSC was forced to close a nearly new polysilicon plant in Tennessee in 2014 after the Chinese tariffs took effect. A SunEdison polysilicon plant in Pasadena, Texas, closed in 2015 and was purchased by a Chinese company, allowing China access to SunEdison’s patented technology.

“We produce some of the lowest cost high-purity polysilicon in the world at our U.S. plants, but China’s actions have forced us to halve our production and lay off around 600 workers,” said Francine Sullivan, REC Silicon’s Vice President of Business Development. “Allowing the Chinese to have these unfair tariffs while subsidizing its own polysilicon production is costing the U.S. high paying jobs and billions of dollars in investment.”

Christian Westermeier, Vice President of Sales and Application Engineering for Germany-based Wacker Chemie AG, joined with WACKER POLYSILICON Vice President Mary Beth Hudson to add their voices to calls for change.

“When WACKER invested $2.5 billion to build its polysilicon plant in Tennessee, it was our biggest investment we had ever made in the U.S. in our more than 100-year history,” Westermeier said of the plant that opened in 2016. Hudson added, “Unfortunately, even while the global solar — and semiconductor — markets are growing, China’s determination to dominate this industry worldwide has left U.S. producers with an ever-smaller share of this important energy source.”

The three industry leaders called for polysilicon to be included in ongoing U.S. trade talks with the Chinese, and for the federal solar tax credit to be extended. They’d also like to see more programs and investment incentives to develop and strengthen critical links in the U.S. solar value and supply chains.

U.S. House Manufacturing Caucus Co-Chairmen Tom Reed, R-N.Y., and Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, said Tuesday’s meeting was a chance for caucus members to learn more about manufacturers critical to maintaining the U.S. lead in defense, energy and innovation industries. Members of Congress and staff from Michigan, Tennessee, Montana and Washington state attended, as did others interested in polysilicon trade issues.

About Hemlock Semiconductor
Hemlock Semiconductor (hscpoly.com) is composed of several joint venture companies owned by DuPont, Corning Inc., and Shin-Etsu Handotai. Hemlock Semiconductor, located since 1961 in Hemlock, Mich., is a leading provider of polycrystalline silicon and other silicon-based products used in the manufacturing of semiconductor devices, solar cells, and modules. It’s the only manufacturer of polysilicon headquartered in the United States.

About REC Silicon
REC Silicon ASA is a leading producer of advanced silicon materials, supplying high-purity polysilicon and silicon gases to the solar and electronics industries worldwide, with over 30 years’ experience and best-in-class proprietary technology. REC’s production facilities are comprised of two U.S.-based silicon materials plants in Moses Lake, Wash., and Butte, Mont. REC Silicon’s corporate headquarters is in Fornebu, Norway.

About Wacker Polysilicon 
Wacker Polysilicon is a global leader in the production of hyperpure polysilicon, used in semiconductors and the growing solar energy market. The Germany-headquartered company began producing polysilicon in Charleston, Tenn., in 2016. It also has other chemical facilities in the United States.

For further information, please contact: 
Francine Sullivan, Vice President Business Development 
Phone: +1 509 750 1133 
Email: francine.sullivan@recsilicon.com

Nils O. Kjerstad IR Contact 
Phone: +47 9135 6659 
Email: nils.kjerstad@crux.no

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