Trump to decide on solar cell tariff
Log in to view your state's edition
You are not logged in
Free Special Reports
Get Your FREE Special Report. Download Any One Of These FREE Special Reports, Instantly!
Featured Special Report
Claim Your Free Copy of 2018 EHS Salary Guide

This report will help you evaluate if you are being paid a fair amount for the responsibilities you are shouldering.

In addition, EHS managers can find the information to keep their departments competitive and efficient—an easy way to guarantee you are paying the right amount to retain hard-to-fill positions but not overpaying on others.

Download Now!
Bookmark and Share
January 16, 2018
Trump to decide on solar cell tariff

An unusual internal conflict dividing supporters of solar energy revolves around the question of whether the United States should impose a tariff on imported solar cells and modules. The fate of the tariff will be decided by President Donald Trump.

As an EHS professional, it’s hard to tell if you are being paid competitively, and as an employer, it’s hard to tell if you are offering salaries that are competitive and efficient. For a Limited Time we’re offering a FREE copy of the 2018 EHS Salary Guide! Download Now

SolarWorld and Suniva, two manufacturers of these solar cells and modules—the companies operate in the United States but are owned by foreign entities—found it difficult to compete with lower-cost imports. The companies filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), asking the ITC to request that Trump come up with a remedy in the form of a tariff. In September 2017, the four members of the ITC unanimously agreed that imports of these materials are occurring in such increased quantities “as to be a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported article.”

In December, the ITC forwarded three “remedies” to Trump, basically different-sized tariffs. The president is scheduled to issue a decision on the recommendations by January 26, 2018.

Capitol Hill joins in

Three Democratic senators and eight representatives—five Democrats and three Republicans—promptly sent letters to the president urging him to approve the tariff remedy.

“As a result of the Commission’s unanimous determination, you have the opportunity to impose a remedy that would address the serious injury to the U.S. industry,” stated the Senate letter. “We write to encourage you to impose a remedy sufficient to allow U.S. [crystalline silicon photovoltaic] solar cell and module manufacturers to make the investments in capital equipment to restart and expand U.S. capacity and to invest in the R&D necessary to achieve long-term competitiveness, while maintaining robust growth of domestic solar energy deployment.”

Industry is larger than manufacturing

But other advocates of U.S. solar energy believe the tariff will increase the cost of components and thereby threaten the profitability of companies that will have to pay much more to assemble residential and utility-scale solar arrays. Opponents of the tariff include New Mexico’s Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich.

“It is important to remember that the production of solar panels is just a small piece of the solar industry as a whole,” Heinrich said at a hearing of the ITC in October 2017. “Only about 14 percent of solar workers in the United States are in manufacturing. And even within the manufacturing space, only a fraction of American companies and workers are in jobs manufacturing solar panels or cells. Tariffs and price floors for solar panels may help a small number of domestic solar panel manufacturers. But major price increases would threaten the entire rest of the American solar industry.”

Heinrich pointed to an estimated 88,000 American solar jobs lost if the proposed tariffs are imposed. New Mexico alone stands to lose 1,545 jobs in 2020 if high tariffs are imposed on solar panels, he said.

Question of management

Heinrich refrained from casting blame on SolarWorld and Suniva. But other industry analysts have been less kind. For example, in an article for RealClear Energy, Robert Dillon, the former communications director of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the tariff would simply bail out two struggling companies.

“A company that can’t compete goes to the government to ask for protection from competitors,” writes Heinrich. “That protection, in the shape of import tariffs, limits other companies’ access to cheaper materials, which increases costs across the entire industry and ultimately forces consumers to pay more for the same product. What could be worse? A tariff that only benefits a pair of mismanaged companies, with a history of poor financial, legal and ethical decisions.”

Featured Special Report:
2018 EHS Salary Guide
Twitter   Facebook   Linked In
Follow Us