Tariff Battle has Solar Industry in Crisis

May 2, 2022

The Hill:

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Thursday said she shares “deep concern” about the impact of potential solar energy tariffs on U.S. renewable energy goals. 

Granholm faced questions during a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing over a Biden administration probe into allegations of tariff circumvention by Southeast Asian companies that manufacture solar panel components. 

“This case could cost us 100,000 American solar jobs and jeopardize our common clean energy goals,” stated Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), referring to the Commerce Department probe and the potential impact on the U.S. renewable energy goals.

“Already 318 projects are being canceled or delayed and if the administration decides to impose tariffs it could cause solar capacity to fall 75 gigawatts of the pace needed to reach the president’s solar goal,” he added.

Peters went on to cite a projection released Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which reduced its forecast for solar installations by nearly half.

The top solar industry group blamed the Biden administration’s probe into allegations of Asian manufacturers dodging tariffs for the reduced forecast.

“I share your deep concern about this,” Granholm replied, saying the White House’s climate office is similarly concerned about such obstacles to reaching its renewable energy targets.

“Already 318 projects are being canceled or delayed and if the administration decides to impose tariffs it could cause solar capacity to fall 75 gigawatts of the pace needed to reach the president’s solar goal,” he added.

Peters went on to cite a projection released Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which reduced its forecast for solar installations by nearly half.

The top solar industry group blamed the Biden administration’s probe into allegations of Asian manufacturers dodging tariffs for the reduced forecast.

“I share your deep concern about this,” Granholm replied, saying the White House’s climate office is similarly concerned about such obstacles to reaching its renewable energy targets.

The Commerce Department announced its investigation last month, saying it would examine whether panel components in several countries were manufactured as part of an effort by Chinese firms to avoid tariffs.

The probe came in response to a petition by California-based solar manufacturer Auxin Solar. Numerous members of Congress have expressed concerns over the potential of both tariffs and the investigation to hurt U.S. solar development.

Earlier this week, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told senators, “Commerce has not made a determination, one way or the other, on the merits of whether circumvention is occurring, and no additional duties have been imposed as a result of the initiation,” a source familiar told The Hill.  

Canary Media:

The fate of the entire U.S. solar industry could hinge on the whims of one small company in California. If the tariffs being demanded by San Jose–based panel manufacturer Auxin Solar are enacted, it could bring the fast-growing, multibillion-dollar solar sector to a screeching halt. 

Earlier this year, Auxin Solar submitted a petition to the U.S. Department of Commerce alleging that Chinese companies are dodging the U.S. tariffs initially imposed by the Obama administration on Chinese and Taiwanese solar cells and modules by building them in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam while still using Chinese-built polysilicon wafers and other materials, as well as Chinese intellectual property. In late March, the U.S. Department of Commerce began an investigation into the companies for circumvention of anti-dumping and countervailing duties — and the impact is already causing shockwaves across the solar supply and customer chain.

Mamun Rashid, co-founder and CEO of Auxin Solar, said in an email: ​“For years, Chinese solar producers have refused to fairly price their products in the U.S. and have gone to significant lengths to continue undercutting American manufacturers and workers by establishing circumventing operations in countries not covered by those duties.” 

But the U.S. solar industry relies heavily on those imports to operate, and the majority of industry players in the U.S. and around the world have taken a strong stance against the tariffs.

Solar project developer Ty Daul, CEO of Primergy, said on LinkedIn that ​“attempts to impose frivolous tariffs on solar manufacturers in Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam are self-serving and narrow-minded, propped up under the guise of international labor concerns.” 

Chinese solar manufacturer Trina Solar took to Twitter, saying: ​“In just one week, the Biden admin’s tariff case has stopped solar panel supply in the U.S. The industry urges [the Commerce Department] to end this disastrous investigation before its [clean energy] agenda is put out of reach.” 

Solar Energy Industries Association CEO Abby Hopper said in a statement that the investigation has unleashed an ​“existential crisis” in the U.S. solar industry. 

One Response to “Tariff Battle has Solar Industry in Crisis”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “…dodging the U.S. tariffs initially imposed by the Obama administration on Chinese and Taiwanese solar cells and modules by building them in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam while still using Chinese-built polysilicon wafers and other materials, as well as Chinese intellectual property.”

    I do like that production has diffused to Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand (even though conditions in those developing countries is still pretty bleak), so some good has come from the tariffs. In any case, with tariffs more than a decade old, shouldn’t that have been long enough to achieve whatever domestic production the USgov was trying to promote?


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