We’ve been following the solar panel tariffs saga for some time now, first in August when a lawsuit was first filed claiming unfairness, and then again in September when the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) sided with the plaintiffs alleging that unfairness and agreed to hear arguments on how to remedy the situation. Last Thursday, the USITC made its decision: tariffs and fees, but considerably lower than proposed by the plaintiffs.
Remember that, Suniva and SunWorld Americas, the two companies that brought the tariff case before the USITC, recommended import duties of $.40/watt on silicone cells and $.78/per watt tariff on imported solar panels. After consideration, however, the USITC’s four commissioners last Tuesday called for tariffs of just up to 30% on silicon-based solar cells, and tariffs on solar panels that range from just 10%-35%. So the tariffs are likely coming but should be a far cry from what was originally anticipated. (The USITC also wants to establish a licensing fee on some equipment in hopes of generating revenue for the U.S. government and aiding domestic solar manufacturers injured by less-expensive imports.)
So that’s the bad news. The good news is that the industry can survive this. What’s recommended is not debilitating to manufacturers or installers. Assuming a 30% tariff on modules, the price of solar panels would increase just 10-15 cents per watt. That’s not crushing to the industry. Unfortunately (and here comes the bad news again), the ruling is a sign that the solar industry, like many others, is susceptible to the policy whims of Washington. Another round of tariffs negotiations could produce a different result. Already the two plaintiffs are calling for President Trump to reject the USITC’s recommendations and go with theirs (higher tariffs).
So what happens now? The USITC will send its recommendations to President Trump by November 13, who will ultimately have the final say. Trump has until January 12, 2018 to make a decision on solar import tariffs. He has full authority to make whatever decision he wants -- including deciding his own remedies we’ve yet to know. We’ll be sure to watch.
Would your company be affected by the solar panel tariffs? Let us know your concerns below.