President Trump has approved duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made outside the U.S. – equipment that currently makes up 80 percent of the supply used domestically. Four years of tariffs that start at 30 percent in the first year and gradually drop to 15 percent have been approved. The first 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells are exempt for each year.
“This is not a goodbye for renewable energy in the U.S.,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said. “I don’t believe this decision will reverse the solar expansion in the U.S. The global solar industry will adjust. The penetration of solar in the U.S. will continue.”
The Solar Energy Industries Association has projected tens of thousands of job losses in a sector that employed 260,000.
“Developers may have to walk away from their projects,” Hugh Bromley, a New York-based analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said. “Some rooftop solar companies may have to pull out” of some states.
Last October, the U.S. International Trade Commission had recommended duties of 35 percent in order to raise the costs of cheap imports and level the playing field for those who manufacture the parts domestically. Nine months ago, Suniva Inc. – a bankrupt U.S. module manufacturer with a Chinese majority owner – sought similar levels of import duties on solar cells and panels asserting that it had suffered “ serious injury” from a flood of cheap panels produced in Asia. A month later, the U.S. unit of German manufacturer SolarWorld AG signed on as a co-petitioner, adding weight to Suniva’s cause.
“We are still reviewing these remedies, and are hopeful they will be enough to address the import surge and to rebuild solar manufacturing in the United States,” said Juergen Stein, president of SolarWorld Americas – one of the two U.S. manufacturers who asked the Trump administration for tariffs. “We will work with the U.S. government to implement these remedies, including future negotiations, in the strongest way possible to benefit solar manufacturing and its thousands of American workers to ensure that U.S. solar manufacturing is world-class competitive for the long term.”