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Small Victory for Solar

image credit: ID 121857904 © Bizoon | dreamstime.com

In 2018, solar tariffs were imposed to boost U.S. solar manufacturing.  Many concerns were voiced about the impact this would have on a growing industry.  Now, almost two years later, the results are in but the issues are still up for debate.  Industry fears worsen as the White House may curtail the scheduled reduction in tariffs.  “We’ll be advocating for the administration to drop the tariffs altogether or at least grant reasonable exclusions to the tariffs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Our fear however is that the administration will somehow make them harsher.”  According to a market impact analysis by Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. is losing solar projects with a total capacity of 10.5 GW because of the tariffs on imported solar cells and modules.  Further analysis of 2017- 2021, show that over 62,000 U.S. jobs and $19 billion in new private sector investments will be lost while the country faces $10.5 million a day in unrealised economic activity because of tariffs. 

Tariffs were initially imposed to help U.S. companies, like Suniva Inc., who were struggling to compete with the low costs of imported materials.    Suniva has argued that the tariff 5% reductions should be scaled back. The company cited “headwinds” such as an exemption to the tariffs for certain solar panels and the stockpiling of solar cells by U.S. companies have undercut the tariffs’ effectiveness.  However, some panel makers have opened factories in the U.S. and have not been deterred by tariffs.  China’s JinkoSolar Holding Co. opened a factory in Jacksonville, Fla and expects U.S. demand for its products to rise nearly 45%.  JinkoSolar manufactures mono-PERC modules and brought 200-300 jobs to the area.  Those positive results may pale in comparison to the loss of 62,000 jobs and for the companies hoping to eliminate tariffs altogether.

Thursday, the industry gained a small victory. The U.S. Court of International Trade issued a preliminary injunction freezing the administration’s move to eliminate the provision that exempted bifacial -- or double-sided -- panels from duties.  The ruling is a win for American solar-farm developers that can continue to circumvent tariffs. The exclusion for bifacial panels will now remain in place for potentially months until the issue is resolved in court.  “This is an important temporary reprieve,” said Abigail Ross Hopper.  The ruling isn’t good news for everyone.   Shares have fallen for First Solar Inc. losing 3.1% and SunPower Corp. sank 2.4%.

The data is in on the economical and financial affects of solar tariffs, good and bad, but the debate will continue.  Beyond that, how are tariffs slowing the countries’ efforts to decarbonize the energy sector? 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 5, 2019 11:02 pm GMT

The ruling is a win for American solar-farm developers that can continue to circumvent tariffs. The exclusion for bifacial panels will now remain in place for potentially months until the issue is resolved in court.

This is a great thing for the American solar workers, who have been hit hardest by this needless tariff situation. 

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