The threat of solar panel tariffs has advanced.
Late last week, the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) voted unanimously that cheap imported solar equipment (with the exception of equipment from Singapore and Canada) has caused “serious injury” to American manufacturers, making it impossible for them to compete. With this finding confirmed, the USITC will now hear arguments on October 3 on how to remedy the situation and recommend what sanctions it believes should be imposed. From there, and by November 13, it will head to the president’s desk. Trump has repeatedly voiced support for tariffs that protect American manufacturers, so it’s looking more and more likely that they’ll become a reality. Suniva and SolarWorld, the manufacturers who filed the case, are calling for duties of $.40/watt on imported cells and a floor price of $.78/per watt on modules.
While this vote hands a victory to solar panel manufacturers, namely the plaintiffs who filed the petition under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, it’s a loss for solar panel installers, salespeople, and construction workers. If the commission approves the request, it could endanger 88,000 NC jobs alone, according to estimates by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Other industry findings are similarly bleak. Suniva and SolarWorld have refuted those job predictions, citing an economic analysis by the law firm Mayer Brown that found new tariffs on solar products would result in a net increase of at least 114,800 jobs across all segments of the U.S. solar industry. It’s worth noting that Mayer Brown is representing Suniva in this case.
The vast majority of the U.S. solar industry is opposed to the request for trade penalties, as are many U.S. Senators, Representatives, and state governors. SEIA and its allies have launched an aggressive lobbying campaign against import penalties, and are ramping up advocacy efforts with the Trump administration. Earlier this week, the group filed a letter with the ITC criticizing Suniva and SolarWorld for not submitting a plan for how they'll function as viable U.S. solar cell and panel manufacturers if they are granted trade relief. The opposition is indeed strong, but time is running particularly short.
Whatever remedy is prescribed for this “injury”, it will have an enormous impact on solar companies in NC and beyond. Consider the October 3 remedy hearing the first hurdle, and make your voice heard now if this decision has the ability to impact your business. As the case moves forward, we’ll continue to provide updates.