By Nathaniel Valyo, National News Writer
The United States International Trade Commission proposed a tariff on imported solar panels this past Tuesday, October 31.
One of the recommendations made by the ITC chairperson was a 35 percent tariff on imported solar panels, a 30 percent tariff on imported solar cells greater than 0.5 gigawatts, and a 10 percent tariff on imported solar cells generating less than 0.5 gigawatts. Two ITC commissioners instead proposed that a 30 percent tariff be implemented on foreign solar panels and a 30 percent tariff on foreign solar cells exceeding one gigawatt. Additionally, another ITC commissioner recommended a four year import quota system, which would allow up to 8.9 gigawatts of imported solar panels and cells during the first year. The tariff rates on all recommendations would decline over the years.
The proposed tariff comes from a recent outcry from domestic solar panel manufacturers, worried that their businesses are being harmed by cheap foreign imports. Suniva, a Georgia-based solar panel manufacturer, expressed their disapproval in the proposed tariffs, stating that they were “disappointed” in the recommendations. The manufacturer called on President Donald Trump “to implement the remedy recommendations as submitted by Suniva, reject the ITC’s weak remedy recommendation, and to take the courageous steps necessary to save American manufacturing with a strong remedy that will reinvigorate this sector and help protect U.S. energy security and economic prosperity.” Suniva initially filed for bankruptcy as a result of lackluster profits and heightened competition from international panel producers back in the beginning of 2017. The tariff recommendations will be pitched to President Trump on Monday, November 13, leaving the president until January 12, 2018 to make a decision.
SolarWorld Americas, another domestic manufacturer, said in a statement, “We are pleased that a bipartisan majority of the Commission has recommended tariffs, tariff-rate quotas, and funding for the domestic industry.” SolarWorld, like Suniva, has called for stricter tariff recommendations, and later added, “The process will now move forward to the president, and we continue to believe that the remedies SolarWorld has recommended are the right ones for this industry at this time.”
The Solar Energy Industries Association, an organization which represents the solar panel industry as a whole, is strongly opposed to the tariffs suggested by Suniva and SolarWorld, stating that their “proposed tariffs would be intensely harmful to our industry.” The president and chief executive of the SEIA, Abigail Ross Hopper, who delivered the statement, added, “The commissioners clearly took a thoughtful approach to their recommendations, and it’s worth noting that in no case did a commissioner recommend anything close to what the petitioners asked for.” The SEIA estimated that with the tariffs proposed by Suniva and SolarWorld, 88,000 jobs would be lost.
The U.S. solar industry initially started as a small energy sector, but within the past decade alone, the solar sector has grown exponentially, with roughly 40 manufacturing plants nationwide, over 9,000 installation companies, and over 260,000 employees. In 2016, 37 percent of all the energy generated in the U.S. came from solar stations, greatly exceeding all other sources of electricity, due to widespread demand for solar panels and increased rates of installation in both urban and rural areas. The growth is due in part to greater imports of solar panels from abroad, which tend to be cheaper in comparison to domestically manufactured panels. Profitability from trade is and lower implementation costs are a chief reason why installation companies and the Solar Energies Industries Administration are strongly opposed to the implementation of stricter tariffs.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 7th print edition.
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