By - Jim Vess

Trump tariffs added $236.5 million to U.S. solar projects, EnergySage says

Energize Weekly, October 10, 2018

The Trump administration’s solar tariffs have added $236.5 million to U.S. solar projects this year, according to solar marketer EnergySage Marketplace.

For the average residential customer, this added up to an extra 16 cents per watt or $960 for a standard 6-kilowatt solar installation, according to EnergySage, which runs a web-based comparison-shopping market for rooftop solar, community solar and solar financing.

In January, President Donald Trump approved a 30 percent tariff on imported photovoltaic 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.

EnergySage said its calculations are based on transactions from July 2017 to June 2018 and saw a 7-cent spike in prices on its market place in September 2017 when the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that American solar manufacturers were being injured by imports.

Prices then stabilized and continue to decline as they have been doing for years, but EnergySage calculated that they are dropping at a slower rate than before. It calculated that costs are now 5.6 percent higher than they would have under the previous rate of decline.

“These tariffs are yet another burden imposed on an industry that has long struggled with costs,” Hugh Bromley, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement. Bloomberg uses EnergySage data. “The residential solar industry is fragmenting.”

The cost of solar fell nationally to $3.12 per watt in the first half of 2018, after the price spike, compared with $3.13 a watt in the second half of 2017, according to EnergySage.

Nevertheless, in several top solar states, such as Arizona, Florida and North Carolina, prices were rising. The costs increases were only seen in states where the cost of solar was already below the national average.

The solar industry is facing yet another tariff as a charge on inverters was included among the $200 billion in tariffs announced by the Trump administration in September. Inverters face an immediate 10 percent tariff, rising to 25 percent in January.

“Any trade restrictions imposed on the solar industry hurts American consumers and American workers,” EnergySage CEO and founder Vikram Aggarwal, said in a statement. “Yet despite these recent hurdles, the residential solar industry remains poised for tremendous growth over the next few years. All-time highs in consumer interest for solar-plus-storage, combined with falling prices and greater transparency, have mitigated the impact of these tariffs.”

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