American Solar Industry Awaits Trump’s Tariff Decision

DENVER – Solar-energy proponents are warning jobs will be lost and the industry will see a major setback if President Donald Trump imposes an import fee on solar panels. 
The U.S. International Trade Commission is scheduled to send its recommendation to the President on Monday for a 35-percent tax on solar panels imported from other countries.

The U.S. Trade Commission is expected to recommend that President Trump approve a tariff increase on imported solar products, with dire effects for busineses and consumers as well as the solar industry. (Pixabay)

There’s no question that low-price imports from China have undercut the ability of some U.S. manufacturers to compete. But according to Garrett Garner-Wells, director of Colorado’s Environment Research and Policy Center, the tariff would make renewable-energy options less affordable for consumers.

“Right now in the U.S., one in 14 homes is powered by solar,” he noted. “We saw one-million solar installations in the first 40 years of solar power – and now, we’re on track to meet that every two years.”

Several companies across the nation have said they’ve put solar projects on indefinite hold or even eliminated them, awaiting the President’s decision on tariffs. It is expected in the next 60 days.

As the Trump administration works to revive the coal industry, it has blasted renewable energy as expensive and dependent on government subsidies. Garner-Wells said the group Environment America has identified 20 fossil-fuel-backed groups and electric utilities running campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy, because increased profit for one industry eventually means lower profits for another.

“Homeowners and business owners who want to see solar on their own homes and in their communities are up against some really powerful players who don’t want to see that happen,” he said.

American manufacturers of solar equipment may have suffered from cheap imports, but Garner-Wells noted those imports have also created thousands of jobs for retailers and installation contractors. It’s estimated that tariffs could increase the cost of a residential solar system by $2,000, and he predicts the anti-solar forces won’t be giving up soon.

“We are seeing even more attacks coming from industry front groups, from within the Trump administration – and from utility companies themselves – who are trying to block progress on solar power,” he added.

The solar industry in the U.S. employs about 260,000 people. One estimate is that a 35-percent tariff would shed about 88,000 of those jobs.

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