Tariffs on Foreign Solar Panels Could Cost U.S. Jobs, Raise Costs

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February 27, 2018
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A tariff of 30% will be applied to imported solar panels, most of which come from China, after the International Trade Commission (ITC) determined that imports of the panels have hurt American companies. Tariffs will be in place for three years and will then decrease, and are meant to provide “breathing room” for industries trying to adjust to a surge in foreign competition, according to a spokesman with the ITC. Tariffs have also been imposed on large foreign-made residential washing machines.

In implementing the tariffs, the Trump administration invoked a trade law from 1974 that allows the president to raise tariffs as high as he wants. The actions are a demonstration of Trump’s “America First” agenda and his latest action against the renewable energy industry. U.S. solar panel manufacturers Suniva and SolarWorld filed a petition in 2017 with the ITC to investigate the sale of solar panels well below typical U.S. prices —a practice known as “dumping.”

The solar panel tariff is a blow to China, the primary country from which the U.S. imports panels, but it will also put U.S. solar installation jobs at risk as a result and likely raise solar installation costs. Overall, about 260,000 Americans work in the solar industry, up 24% from 2015, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. The Solar Energy Industries Association warned the administration that such an action could put 48,000 to 63,000 American solar industry workers out of a job this year. Advocates for the renewable energy industry claim the move will handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80% of its supply.

This is the latest action by the administration undermining the domestic renewable energy industry. Trump had already decided to pull the U.S. out of the international Paris Agreement on climate change, rolled back Obama-era regulations on power plant emissions, and passed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind power. The import taxes, however, appear to be the most targeted strike on the industry yet.

The American Council on Renewable Energy has claimed the tariff will cause electricity prices to rise.

— CNN Money and Time.com