Steep Tariffs On Imported Solar Panels Will Cost US Solar Industry
President Trump’s decision to impose a tariff on imported solar panels will cost the US solar industry thousands of jobs this year says industry association.
Trump has imposed a 30 percent tariff on foreign-made solar cells and modules, with the White House expressing alarm at a huge rise in imported components and low-priced solar cells and modules from China.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – the national trade association for the U.S. industry maintain 23,000 jobs could be lost in 2018, pointing out that most solar manufacturing in the US revolves around making parts for cheaper imported panels, rather than the cells and panels themselves. SEIA and its members expressed disappointment in the decision by President Trump to impose 30 percent tariffs on imported solar cells and panels. The decision could result in the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investments.
“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs," said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s President and CEO.
The impact of the decision will be far-reaching across all sectors of the solar economy, SEIA members said.
“It boggles my mind that this president - any president, really - would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy," said Tony Clifford, chief development officer, Standard Solar. “This decision is misguided and denies the reality that bankrupt foreign companies will be the beneficiaries of an American taxpayer bailout."
SEIA estimates that a tariff at this level will eliminate, not add to, American manufacturing jobs. There were 38,000 jobs in solar manufacturing in the U.S. at the end of 2016, and all but 2,000 made something other than cells and panels, the subject of this case. Those 36,000 Americans manufactured metal racking systems, high-tech inverters, machines that improved solar panel output by tracking the sun and other electrical products.
Trump has long complained that China has an unfair advantage over the US on trade and his stance has been backed by two companies that claim cheap imports have hit American solar manufacturing.
Last year, Suniva, a US module manufacturer with a Chinese majority owner, lodged a complaint with the International Trade Commission that stated it had suffered “significant harm" due to imported cells and modules. The US arm of SolarWorld joined the petition.
Some hope that the cost of the technology has dropped so much in recent years that the industry could emerge relatively unscathed.High stakes indeed.