The US subsidiary of a Chinese solar panel giant has hired a leading bipartisan lobbying firm as the renewable energy sector hopes for a major boost under the incoming Joe Biden administration.
Mercury Public Affairs is currently negotiating a written contract with JinkoSolar (U.S.), the San Francisco-based subsidiary of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer. The firm was retained effective Dec. 7 to advise on “public relations services related to JinkoSolar’s business practices and economic interests, including outreach to US-based media,” according to a new lobbying filing. “It is possible the scope of work will expand if the parties agree to a written contract.”
Mercury said it registered with the US Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) under an “abundance of caution.” The client’s parent company, JinkoSolar Holding Co. of Shanghai, has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 2010. Its US operations include a manufacturing plant in Jacksonville, Fla.
JinkoSolar (US) declined to say why it had retained lobbying assistance. But it is a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group whose priorities include lifting President Donald Trump‘s 2018 tariffs on imported solar panels, which were aimed at competition from China; extend by five years tax credits for solar energy systems that have begun to phase out; and naming Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioners who support clean energy.
JinkoSolar (US) previously retained the services of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas soon after Trump imposed his solar tariffs in January 2018 but those contracts were terminated later that year. The company’s in-house lobbying has also gone dry, dropping from $300,000 in 2018 to just $6,000 in the first three quarters of this year.
The registration comes as JinkoSolar’s share price has been skyrocketing in recent months amid political support for renewable energy in both China and the United States. Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged at the UN General Assembly in September to achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2060, while Biden vowed during the presidential campaign to invest $400 billion over 10 years in clean energy and innovation — part of his $2 trillion plan to eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions from the US electricity grid within 15 years.
“The China-based solar panel manufacturer rose following strong earnings report released toward the end of September, then accelerated as polls showed an increasingly likely Democratic win in the November elections,” Billy Duberstein, a portfolio manager at California Registered Investment Advisor Stone Oak Capital, wrote last month in The Motley Fool. “After such a big run in solar stocks and JinkoSolar in particular, there may be some cooling off in the offing; however, with the difficult solar panel industry more consolidated today than in years past, and continuous cost reductions making solar energy cost effective against fossil fuels even without subsidies, Jinko’s future, along with those of other solar industry leaders, looks bright.”
JinkoSolar isn’t alone among foreign renewable energy companies stepping up their lobbying.
Hanwha Q CELLS America Inc., the US subsidiary of South Korean solar panel maker Hanwha Solutions Corp., hired Boundary Stone Partners effective Oct. 28 on a range of issues including “federal procurement of renewable energy.” Lobbying for the company is Steven Koerner, a former legislative assistant to former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).
Former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham recently registered his Abraham Group as a lobbyist for Spanish green energy giant Iberdrola, effective July 1. Blank Rome Government Affairs is also registered as a subcontractor to the Abraham Group on the account. Abraham will “monitor issues/activities and provide outreach and advocacy to legislative and executive branches on North American energy policies and related trade and foreign policy issues.”