Senators want utility-scale solar exempted from tariffs

Source: Geof Koss, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, May 11, 2018

A group of Republican senators are calling on the Trump administration to exclude utility-scale solar panels from tariffs imposed earlier this year.

In a letter to top administration officials to be released later today, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and seven other Republicans call for 72-cell, 1,500-volt utility-scale panels to be spared from the tariffs.

“Solar manufacturing jobs have surged 58% in the last five years, and the growth rate in over 50 factories throughout the Midwest and South has become increasingly affiliated with the deployment of these 72 cell, 1500 volt panels that have never been manufactured in the United States,” the senators wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

“The exclusion of 72-cell, 1500 volt solar panels from the safeguard measure will preserve tens of thousands of existing solar manufacturing and development jobs, foster market expansion, and allow the U.S. to once again fairly compete in the global marketplace for energy production technologies,” they wrote.

“Sensible product exclusions will uphold the integrity of the safeguard measures intended to facilitate positive adjustment to competition from imports of certain crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells,” they said.

Also signing the letter were Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

The plea follows President Trump’s January decision establishing a 30 percent tariff on solar panel imports, which will decline in increments over four years (E&E News PM, Jan. 23).

The move, later followed by tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, has sparked concerns from members of both parties of a broader trade war.

Last month, a bipartisan band of House lawmakers launched a long-shot bid to scrap the solar tariffs (E&E News PM, April 19). However, Republicans in both chambers have largely sought to nudge the administration to soften the economic blow of Trump’s actions.