solar panel

Trump applies 30 per cent tariff on solar cell and module imports

Image credit: DT

In a policy aimed at boosting domestic manufacturers of solar components, the US federal government will apply a tariff of 30 per cent on imported solar components, decreasing over the next four years.

These products have already faced import duties since 2012, although the latest decision will result in a significant increase in prices.

Such a tariff can only be applied if certain imports are found to be causing “serious injury” to a US industry. According to the White House, the decision followed an investigation by the International Trade Commission which found that imports of solar cells and modules are a “substantial cause of serious injury” to domestic manufacturers. The decision will also affect imported washing machines.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry criticised the tariffs in a statement, saying that: “The US side once again abused its trade remedy measures […] China expresses its strong dissatisfaction with this.”

A growing number of American households and businesses have been adopting solar panels in recent years, in part due to technological developments rendering solar energy more cost effective than was previously possible, but also thanks to the availability of cheap panels manufactured abroad.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the single largest source of job creation from 2016-26 was predicted to be solar panel installation.

In a statement responding to Trump’s decision, the Solar Energy Industries Association expressed “disappointment”. According to the group, the tariff could cause 23,000 US jobs to be lost and result in the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investments, with far-reaching impacts across the solar economy.

“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, president and CEO of the trade body, in a statement.

Tony Clifford, an executive at Standard Solar, said that the decision was “misguided”, and commented that it “boggles [his] mind that this president - any president - would voluntarily choose to damage one of the fastest [growing] segments of [the US] economy.”

The decision has the potential to not only damage a growing sector of the US economy, but also to have a negative impact on efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the US by switching from fossil fuels to an inexpensive and renewable source of energy.

The 2015 Paris Agreement – whose signatories include every recognised UN member state apart from the US – was established as an international effort to reduce carbon emissions in order to avert the most disastrous impacts of climate change. Trump withdrew the US from the agreement soon after taking office in January 2017.

Despite this decision, many state leaders have announced that they intend to continue to work towards reducing carbon emissions at a local level.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles