Since 2010, the cost for solar has dropped nearly 70%, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the US and affording many homeowners the opportunity to install solar on their homes. The solar industry has been a bright spot for economic and job growth while saving homeowners significantly on their home electric costs.
After filing for bankruptcy in April 2017, the Georgia-based solar manufacturer Suniva, Inc. filed a petition with the U.S. International Trade Commission that could have major implications for the US solar industry and drastically raise the cost for solar panels for many years to come.
Countless companies involved in the solar industry could be forced to close their businesses, solar systems would be too expensive for many home owners, and 88,000 jobs could be lost.
Suniva Trade Case
Suniva's petition claims cheap imports of solar cells and modules have made American-manufactured hardware uncompetitive. U.S. solar manufacturers “simply cannot survive” in a market where foreign imports “have unexpectedly exploded and prices have collapsed,” Suniva said in its petition. (Yale Environment 360)
They have asked the commission to impose import tariffs of 40 cents per watt on imported cells and a floor price of 78 cents per watt on modules. If implemented, those prices would make America the highest-priced solar country. (Green Tech Media)
In late September, the International Trade Commission determined there is a valid argument to Suniva's claims and the decision now rests on President Trump to decide on what, if any, actions are warranted. If he wishes, he can impose the tariffs for at least four years, with options that could extend to eight years in total.
There is an irony in this case. Suniva is majority-owned by a Chinese company so their claim that cheap Chinese imports is questionable at best. The reality is there has been a tariff on Chinese solar panels for a number of years, though it is lower than the proposed tariff in this case.
This trade case would impose a tariff on importing solar cells and modules from all countries, not just China. This would effectively level the playing field among solar-producing countries and give a competitive advantage to Chinese companies.
Solar Trade Case Impact
According to Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the proposed tariff and minimum pricing requirements would double the price of solar panels in the U.S. (SEIA)
The prospect of global tariffs “poses an existential threat to the broad solar industry and its 260,000 American jobs,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, the chief executive of the Solar Electric Industries Association, the industry’s largest trade organization. Most solar jobs in the United States are in sales and installation, not manufacturing, but tariffs could drive up the cost of solar and make it less competitive. (Yale Environment 360)
The American solar industry has largely moved to focus on more sophisticated parts of the value chain, including designing innovations such as trackers that orientate toward the sun. In fact, of the more than 260,000 solar jobs in the country today, less than 1,000 are in module manufacturing. To put that in context, the industry estimates that 88,000 American jobs would be lost if tariffs are introduced. (Forbes)
NM Solar Group's View On Trade Case
NM Solar Group is proud to offer high quality solar systems at affordable prices to our neighbors in New Mexico. Our employees are given an opportunity to make a good and meaningful living while making a positive difference in our community. The future of the solar industry rests on the outcome of this trade case and we strongly believe that any decision that hurts our industry is not the best option.
NM Solar Group is a strong supporter of American-made products, and we try to source as much American-made products as possible for our clients, but we believe this tariff would drive up the costs of solar for consumers to an unreasonable level and therefore make is less accessible.
With 88,000 jobs on the line from this case, it would have an unprecedented impact on the US economy that would not be offset by the slim benefits on the few US-based solar manufacturers. Further, it is reasonable to expect any import tariffs on solar would be met with export tariffs by impacted countries in other products, further raising costs for consumers and hurting the US economy.
President Trump will soon make the final determination on the future of solar in America and the fate of the many workers that will be impacted. He has expressed strong interest in supporting energy independence and job growth in America. The solar industry is an incredibly important part of the economy, a source of many high paying and reliable jobs, and one of the primary paths to sustainable energy independence.
If you feel strongly about supporting the solar industry in America, please reach out to your local congressional leaders to voice your stance on this issue. The president's decision will be made shortly and we must act now before it is too late.
It is worth emphasizing solar prices may be increasing significantly soon so many folks are wanting to lock in prices at the current low levels.
NM Solar Group provides solar in Albuquerque metro area as well as solar in Alamogordo and surrounding areas. If you would like to explore solar for your own home, please call NM Solar Group at 505-415-6172 or Click Here to schedule a free consultation.