US solar tariff decision ‘is a loss for America’

26 January 2018

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) – the national trade association for the US solar industry – has expressed its disapproval of the decision by president Trump to impose 30 % tariffs on imported solar cells and panels.
The decision effectively will cause the loss of roughly 23 000 jobs this year, including many in manufacturing, and it will result in the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investments, says SEIA.
“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet US demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO.
The impact of the decision will be far-reaching across all sectors of the solar economy, SEIA members said.
“It boggles my mind that this president – any president – would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest-growing segments of our economy,” said Tony Clifford, chief development officer at Standard Solar. “This decision is misguided and denies the reality that bankrupt foreign companies will be the beneficiaries of an American taxpayer bailout.”
SEIA estimates that a tariff at this level will eliminate, not add to, manufacturing jobs. There were 38 000 jobs in solar manufacturing in the USA at the end of 2016, and all but 2000 made something other than cells and panels, the subject of this case. The other 36 000 were employed in making metal racking systems, high-tech inverters, machines that improved solar panel output by tracking the sun, and other electrical products.
“There’s no doubt this decision will hurt US manufacturing, not help it,” said Bill Vietas, president of RBI Solar in Cincinnati. “The US solar manufacturing sector has been growing as our industry has surged over the past five years. Government tariffs will increase the cost of solar and depress demand, which will reduce the orders we’re getting and cost manufacturing workers their jobs.”
While the case will undoubtedly have negative effects on the industry, SEIA pointed out that the tariffs were nowhere near as bad as those that Suniva and SolarWorld had requested.  SEIA also looks forward to working with interested parties to achieve a positive outcome in the existing anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases.
“While we believe the decision will be significantly harmful to our industry and the economy, we appreciate that the president and the administration listened to our arguments,” said Abigail Hopper. “Our industry will emerge from this. The case for solar energy is just too strong to be held down for long, but the severe near-term impacts of these tariffs are unfortunate and avoidable.”

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