While President Trump’s supporters claim that he is good for the economy, the facts say otherwise. The tariffs he imposed on solar cells and modules are a good example. They have cost this country 62,000 jobs and $19 billion in new private sector investment, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
On January 23, 2018, President Trump signed a proclamation that placed tariffs on imported solar cells and modules for four years. The tariffs went into effect on February 7, 2018. The tariffs came after two solar manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld, filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking tariffs. The tariff level is 30 percent and declines five percent a year over four years.
“Solar was the first industry to be hit with this administration’s tariff policy, and now we’re feeling the impacts that we warned against two years ago,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“This stark data should be the predicate for removing harmful tariffs and allowing solar to fairly compete and continue creating jobs for Americans.”
The solar tariffs have resulted in 10.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar installations being canceled. That is enough energy to power 1.8 million homes and reduce 26 million metric tons of carbon emissions. Solar tariffs cost the U.S. over $10.5 million daily in “unrealized economic activity,” as the report puts it. Every new job created by the tariffs ends up costing 31 additional jobs, 5.3 megawatts of solar deployment and almost $9.5 million in lost investment. The reduced solar deployment will increase carbon emissions equivalent to 5.5 million cars or seven coal plants.
The solar tariffs are causing consumers to pay more for solar panels. The prices of U.S. solar panels are among the highest in the world, with the prices 43 to 57 percent higher than the global average. That leads to consumers paying more and reduces the overall demand.
The solar tariffs will particularly affect budding solar markets, including Alabama, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas. Those markets will not be able to take off because the tariffs make solar energy uncompetitive.
The midterm review process for the solar tariffs started at the U.S. ITC on December 5. The review covers the impacts of the tariffs from the start of the 2017 complaint through 2021 when the tariffs end.
The exemption for bifacial solar modules will stand for now
Bifacial solar modules were exempt from the tariffs until the Trump administration announced in June 2018 that they would no longer be exempt as of October 28. In early December, the U.S. Court of International Trade allowed the exclusion to stand. The case is still under review and this is only a temporary reprieve.
The solar industry will continue to fight against the tariffs. As Hopper said, “We will continue to make the case that the Section 201 tariffs are harming the U.S. industry and the American consumer and that the bifacial exclusion was a fair and reasonable solution to the problem of domestic module supply shortages.”