In late September 2017, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) unanimously voted that cheap solar imports from other countries were causing serious injury to the domestic industry of solar power inside the United States of America.
Recently, the four commissioners of the commission on Tuesday October 31, 2017 voiced their support for tariffs and other import restrictions to protect domestic solar companies from an influx of cheap solar panels being produced overseas and shipped to America. The current complaint is about competition from the cheaply priced crystalline silicon photovoltaic (CSPV) solar cells. The petitioners for this tariff are the companies of Suniva and SolarWorld Americas. The two companies brought this Section 201 trade case to the ITC earlier this year, citing serious financial harm they claimed to have suffered due to the cheap imported solar products influx.
Most of the U.S. solar industry has strongly opposed the tariffs suggesting that the remedies they seek would be disastrous for the domestic industry. Tariffs or import restrictions, they say, would raise overall panel prices, costing solar jobs, particularly in panel installation. Restrictions could “adversely affect the hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers employed in installing solar projects, manufacturing other equipment and providing a range of services, including cutting-edge research and development, in support of this market.” These other U.S. solar companies nonetheless have been bracing for higher fees, which they say will disrupt the $29 billion industry, stifling installations and triggering job cuts. Some developers were already stocking up on inventory in anticipation of higher costs and halting construction on projects because of this current pricing uncertainty.
The proposed plan by select members of the ITC would place a 30-35% tariff on imported crystalline silicon PV solar modules, to decline by 1-5 percentage points per year over four years. The ITC want to initiate levels that will not disrupt expected growth in CSPV demand, but will help address the serious injury to the domestic industry by preventing further surges of solar panel imports.
Now it is U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision. He has wide discretion to adopt one of the commissioner’s recommendations, do something else altogether, or nothing at all. His deadline for the Section 201 solar trade case decision is January 12, 2018. What decision would you make for this world solar power conundrum? Allow current solar panel imports without restriction with U.S focusing mainly on the installation? Or impose import tariffs to promote American solar businesses to both manufacture and install our future solar panel power infrastructure?