By - Jim Vess

Trump administration disputes claim solar tariffs led to slower job growth and investment

Energize Weekly, December 11, 2019

The Trump administration’s tariffs on solar cells has blunted the growth in jobs, investment and generating capacity, according to a report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The analysis calculated that the industry has forgone 62,000 jobs, $19 billion in lost investment and missed building 10.5 gigawatts of new capacity.

The SEIA report was released in advance of a hearing by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Dec. 7 to review the tariffs, which are slated to be stepped down in 2020 and 2021.

The Trump administration rejected the projections in the SEIA’s report. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro told Bloomberg News the report was “fake news wrapped up in academic mumbo jumbo.”

The tariffs were issued in 2018 by the ITC in response to a complaint filed by two domestic solar panel makers – Suniva and SolarWorld. The ITC investigation began in May 2017 and found that the two were hurt by foreign imports.

The Trump administration employed a little-used section of trade law to impose the sanctions, placing, a 30 percent tariff on imported photovoltaic (PV) solar cells and modules with the tariff stepping down 5 percent a year to 15 percent in 2021. The first 2.5 gigawatts of imports were exempt from the tariff each year, as well as imports from some developing nations.

The tariffs added $236.5 million to U.S. solar projects in 2018, according to solar marketer EnergySage Marketplace.

The global average PV spot prices, without the tariffs, for monocrystalline and multicrystalline modules, without tariffs, declined 27 percent and 26 percent, respectively, from December 2017 to July 2018.

Since mid-2018, PV module prices have been relatively stable, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said that the “continued decline in the cost of solar PV modules may have offset some of the effects of the solar tariff.”

But in its report, the SEIA said that the “price declines have been significantly undercut by the safeguard tariffs—with U.S. prices now among the highest in the world.”

The higher prices of modules and cells, the study said, are cutting the potential market and pushing the economics in marginal markets in favor of alternatives including existing generation, natural gas-fired generation and wind power.

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