Senators press Biden to scrap Trump solar tariffs

Source: By Lesley Clark, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2020

A dozen senators are asking President-elect Joe Biden to fully repeal the Trump administration tariffs on solar panel imports, saying they’ve harmed the domestic solar industry.

In the letter initiated by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the senators argue that in three years the tariffs have “dealt a significant setback to the solar power sector.”

The letter says prices of solar panels are now among the highest in the world, ranging from 43% to 57% more than the global average.

It also points to a study that estimated that as many as 62,000 solar jobs have been lost or not created and more than 10.5 gigawatts of solar capacity delayed.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, which conducted the jobs survey, has called for Biden to make repealing the tariffs a top priority, though a nascent field of U.S. manufacturers warns that a rollback would pose an “existential threat” and raise the possibility of political blowback (Energywire, Nov. 12).

Trump imposed the first of the solar tariffs in 2018, slapping a 30% tax on panels and cells brought in from outside the United States.

A second tariff enacted that same year took more direct aim at China, hitting solar equipment from the country with an additional 25% duty.

Biden’s plan to tackle climate change includes achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035, and the senators argue that full repeal of the tariffs would “assure the solar industry can compete on equal footing with all other sources of electric power and further advance your climate and job-creation goals.”

Tariff policy has divided the American solar industry since the Obama administration, with developers pushing for access to low-cost panels and cells from Asia, while U.S. manufacturers cry foul over unfair competition from other countries.

Biden’s position is unclear. His transition team did not return requests for comment on the letter. Biden in an interview earlier this month said he was not inclined to act swiftly to reverse the 25% tariffs that Trump imposed on about half of China’s exports to the U.S.

“I’m not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs,” he told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, referring to the tariffs and Trump’s trade deal with China. “I’m not going to prejudice my options.”