Senators fight proposed tariffs on solar panels

Source: By Timothy Cama, The Hill • Posted: Monday, August 14, 2017

A bipartisan group of senators is expressing “deep concern” over a federal agency considering potential trade penalties for imported solar panel technology.

The Friday letter spearheaded by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Thom Tillis(R-N.C.), who both hail from states with growing solar power capacity, tells the International Trade Commission (ITC) that the penalties could severely hurt the solar industry.

The warning comes ahead of a hearing next week in which the ITC will consider a petition from beleaguered domestic manufacturers Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld Americas for tariffs or price minimums on imported technology.

The ITC is due later this year to determine whether domestic companies are harmed by imported photovoltaic cell technology and then to make a recommendation to President Trump, who can unilaterally impose penalties.

The 16 senators on the letter noted that solar companies employ 260,000 Americans, but argued that “all of the tremendous growth in solar investments, installations, and jobs could be in danger if the trade case causes solar prices to spike significantly.”

“Increasing costs will stop solar growth dead in its tracks, threatening tens of thousands of American workers in the solar industry and jeopardizing billions of dollars in investment in communities across the country,” the senators wrote.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents companies in numerous areas related to solar power and opposes the petition, said the penalties could put 88,000 American jobs at risk.

But an analysis published this week on behalf of Suniva and SolarWorld argues that at least 114,800 new American jobs would be created if the petition were granted.

Suniva, which is bankrupt, and SolarWorld, which has warned that it is in dire financial straits, say unfair competition from foreign countries like China make it nearly impossible to compete.

The petition was filed under Section 201 of the Trade Act, which does not require that the federal government find any wrongdoing in order to implement penalties.

Shortly after Suniva filed its petition, Reps. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Rob Woodall(R-Ga.), who host Suniva facilities in their districts, wrote to the ITC to support the proposal.