Protecting solar panel manufacturers doesn't help American workers, it punishes them

Las Vegas Sun

11/2/17

President Trump has been the biggest advocate of protectionism to occupy the White House since Herbert Hoover, who signed a notorious tariff-raising law in 1930 that deepened the Great Depression. So far, though, the Trump administration has taken a limited, more conventional approach to trade imbalances, using tariffs only to raise the cost of imported materials and products that were allegedly being dumped into United States at below-cost prices.

Now, an independent federal agency that adjudicates trade disputes is urging Trump to broaden the shield that the U.S. already provides domestic solar panel manufacturers against unfair foreign competitors. Dusting off a little-enforced provision in federal law, the International Trade Commission on Tuesday called for the imposition of temporary emergency tariffs of up to 35% on foreign-made solar panels and modules, with no need for proof of dumping or subsidies, in order to give two U.S. companies time to adapt to a surge in imports. The commission is also moving to give appliance maker Whirlpool similar protection against foreign-made washing machines.

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Solar tariffs would kill jobs, harm environment

USA Today

1/17/18

Any day now, President Trump is expected to decide whether to punish China with tariffs on cheap solar cells and panels it exports to America.

For a president who raged against China during the presidential campaign, calling its mounting trade deficit with the United States "the greatest theft in the history of the world," it might be tempting to finally substitute action for rhetoric. But a decision to slap big import taxes on the Chinese-made solar parts would be a serious mistake, one likely to kill far more American jobs than it saves. 

Artificially raising prices on imported solar cells and panels would hurt a burgeoning domestic solar industry that employs the kind of "forgotten" Americans whom Trump champions: small contractors who employ blue-collar workers earning a median of $26 an hour; one in 10 are veterans. 

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Tariffs would throw monkey wrench into humming economy

The Hill

1/8/18

An odd truth must be admitted on trade policy: For all of President Donald Trump’s bluster and threats almost one year into his term, he hasn’t raised a single tariff. This is not to soft-pedal or deny his protectionist instincts, which are plain for all to see.

After all, he is the president who withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) only days after taking office, oversaw the launch of trade investigations widely seen as a prelude to possible tariffs, threatened to withdraw from both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) and privately thundered to advisors about his desire to impose tariffs. 

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Clouds drift over US solar industry

Financial Times

1/5/18

With robot precision, a series of machines at SunPower’s headquarters in San Jose, California, slices wafers from an ingot of silicon, treats them and coats them to make cells, and then assembles those cells into panels. The site is a manufacturing research facility, opened in August, that is emblematic of the success of the US solar industry over the past decade. Between 2007 and 2016, installations of new panels rose nearly 90-fold, from 169 megawatts of capacity to 15 gigawatts.

As it enters 2018, however, the industry faces a clouded future. President Donald Trump has talked about his enthusiasm for solar power, but the priorities of his administration lie elsewhere. Tax reform, electricity regulation and potential new duties on imported panels are looming over the industry, threatening to disrupt the conditions that have made success possible. Already, installations have slowed for the first time in more than a decade, dropping about 22 per cent to 11.8GW last year, according to estimates for the Solar Energy Industries Association. This year is expected to be weaker again.

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Trump Should Reject The Protectionist Attack On Solar Energy

Investor's Business Daily

1/2/18

Right before the election last year, I did something stupid with my money.

Assuming Hillary Clinton would win, I invested in an inverse S&P fund. I was expecting that the market would contract the week after a Clinton victory and that I could make a few quick bucks.

Not my worst investment decision but certainly one of them … If I were feeling particularly nationalistic, I'd say I bet against America and I lost.

The last year has been the mother of all stock market rallies. Last week, the headline was that the stock market had "set a record for setting records." In 2017, the Dow has had 70 trading days that ended on record closes, while the NASDAQ had 72. The S&P has had only 62 record closings (not quite a record, but close). In the 12 months since Trump's victory, the market created $5.4 trillion in new wealth.

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Ignore the Siren Call of Protectionism

U.S. News & World Report

12/19/17

One of the most interesting phenomena of the Trump administration's first 11 months in office is the several 'strange bed-fellow' coalitions which have sprung up in response to different regulatory proposals.

The most high-profile example to-date relates to the Department of Energy's directive to subsidize the cost of aging, uncompetitive coal and nuclear plants, which I wrote about recently and which has now generated more than 1,500 public comments, as everyone from online retailers to ice cream companies have condemned the idea. A response from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is due by Jan. 10.

Less visible but equally significant is a case that is also approaching its end-game. And once again it has united the left and right in opposition, as liberals, conservatives, free-market champions and renewable energy advocates have come together to warn President Trump against a potentially disastrous decision.

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Solar industry says $5.6B in Southeast projects threatened by tariff

Southeast Energy News

12/19/17

As much as $5.6 billion in solar investments and nearly 15,000 jobs in four Southeast states would be at risk if President Trump places tariffs on imported solar panels, according to an industry analysis.

Trump is expected to decide by January 26 if the solar industry’s heavy reliance on solar panels imported from China and elsewhere are primarily responsible for the financial difficulties of two U.S. manufacturers. One of them, Georgia-based Suniva, has declared bankruptcy and has at least temporarily shut down operations.

The prospect of the tariff poses a significant threat to the growth of solar in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to data compiled for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) by GTM Research, a Rutgers University economist and the Hughes Hubbard & Reed law firm.

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Trump’s potential tariffs could hurt US solar companies: SunPower CEO

Fox Business

12/19/17

On Monday, President Donald Trump revealed his national security strategy, where he called out powerhouse trade partner China as a threat to U.S. economic dominance. According to Politico, an unreleased White House document suggests that the Trump administration may look to put tariffs on Chinese-made solar power equipment.

SunPower CEO Tom Werner on Tuesday argues that if the Trump administration puts a tariff on Chinese solar panels, it will have a negative impact on both the manufacturing and energy sectors.

“There are 1,000 jobs, 2,000 at peak, in the manufacturing sector that [should] be protected. There are 260,000 outside of that in the value chain. So if you increase the cost of a solar panel, then you’ll decrease demand and you’ll have less employment, 260,000 to 2,000 or 130 to 1. So you need to look at the impact across the entire value chain,” he told FOX Business’ Liz Claman on “Countdown to the Closing Bell.”

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President Trump, Say No to Solar Tariffs

Real Clear Energy

12/18/17

A company that can’t compete goes to the government to ask for protection from competitors. 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.

Those are the troubling facts of a trade case working its way through Washington, D.C. presently.

Suniva and SolarWorld, two bankrupt solar cell manufactures, have exploited a rarely used provision in the 1974 Trade Act to convince the International Trade Commission that they are entitled to protection from international competition.

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U.S. solar installations to fall more than expected in 2017

Reuters

12/14/17

U.S. solar installations will fall more than expected this year, according to an industry report released on Thursday, due to weakened demand for residential systems and delays on large projects over concerns that President Donald Trump will impose tariffs on imported panels, increasing costs.

In a quarterly report, GTM Research said it expected U.S. installations to fall 22 percent to 11.8 gigawatts (GW) this year, down from a prior forecast that called for a decline of 17 percent. GTM conducted the analysis for the Solar Energy Industries Association trade group.

In the third quarter, market installations fell 51 percent to 2.03 GW. Last year was a particularly strong year for installations as developers raced to capture a federal tax credit that had been scheduled to expire at the end of 2016. The solar market is also expected to fall next year but will resume growth in 2019, GTM said.

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Trade case holds back solar growth, new report says

Utility Dive

12/14/17

  • It has now been eight consecutive quarters where the United States' solar market installed at least 2 GW of solar PV capacity, but industry proponents say installations are down as a result of higher prices and uncertainty surrounding a pending trade case.
  • GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association issued the U.S. Solar Market Insight report today, finding 2,031 MW of PV was installed in the third quarter — a 51% drop year-over-year. Cumulative year-to-date comparison has solar capacity additions down 22% compared to this point last year, according to the analysis.
  • Some of the slowdown is a result of uncertainty from a solar trade case, the report says. President Trump must make a recommendation of trade remedies by Jan. 26, after the International Trade Commission concluded SolarWorld and Suniva required import relief under a Section 201 investigation of the 1974 Trade Act. 

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LOMAX: Solar trade barriers won’t help American workers

Colorado Politics

12/13/17

There’s nothing wrong with a vigorous debate over where, when and how we get the energy needed to run our households, businesses and the broader economy. But too often, the debate over energy policy is falsely portrayed as an all-or-nothing, zero-sum game.

In reality, it takes a mix of different energy sources working together to support our way of life. Politicians and political campaigners who suggest otherwise, pitting the different energy sources against each other in a winner-take-all contest, are just wrong on the facts. No single energy source can meet 100 percent of our needs. In a growing economy, there is enough room for all energy sources to play their role, and we need them all to play their role.

Therefore, political campaigns to isolate and eliminate specific energy sources are totally misguided. In fact, as a former energy reporter and as an advocate, I have never seen these divisive campaigns create any real political advantage for their supporters in Washington, D.C. or in the states.

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Dozens Of U.S. Mayors Declare Support For Solar

Solar Industry

12/13/17

Dozens of U.S. mayors from across the country have signaled their public support for solar energy to power their communities. A statementreleased Tuesday by advocacy group Environment America includes signatures from city mayors and local officials ranging from South Miami, Fla., to Traverse City, Mich., who agree on the need to tap into clean energy from the sun.

“There is no downside to solar energy,” comments Naples, Fla., Mayor Bill Barnett. “It’s a win-win for all involved.”

Solar energy continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Latest figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association show that the U.S. now has enough installed solar capacity to power the equivalent of over 9 million homes, and Environment America says cities that prioritize solar power have helped to drive this growth. In 2016, just 20 cities accounted for as much solar power capacity as the entire country had installed in 2010.

Why small businesses are against tariffs on foreign solar suppliers

Supply Chain Dive

12/12/17

If President Trump imposes tariffs on foreign solar imports, Rondre Tompkins could lose his job as a solar installer at McCarthy.

That's because the tariffs — pushed by two U.S.-based solar manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld — could severely cripple the U.S. solar supply chain.

"We just had a pay cut and a couple people laid off because of this going on," Tompkins told Supply Chain Dive. "If I lose my job in solar, it will be extremely hard for me to find another job in solar, because other companies will probably be doing the same thing."

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Solar Stakeholders Testify, Rally At Trade Case Hearing

Solar Industry

12/7/17

On Wednesday, solar industry stakeholders converged once again in Washington, D.C., for  what was likely the final public hearing on the controversial Section 201 trade case before President Donald Trump makes his decision.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), which advises the president on trade matters, held the meeting to evaluate the case and heard testimony from an array of advocates and opponents. Representatives from both sides offered few new arguments than those made at the previous U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) hearings. Nonetheless, co-petitioners Suniva and SolarWorld Americas pushed for tougher trade actions than what the ITC had recommended in late October. And the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) used the USTR gathering to lead a large opposition rally, which included solar workers’ marching toward the White House afterwards.

A day before the USTR hearing, SEIA also launched a six-step “America First” plan, which the group claims provides a blueprint for Trump to keep the solar industry growing and begins with rejecting solar import tariffs.

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Schneider Electric Statement to the USTR

Edward Gresser
Chair, Trade Policy Staff Committee
Office of the United States Trade Representative
1724 F Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20258

RE: Potential Action: CSPV Cells (Docket Number: USTR - 2017 - 0020)

Dear Mr. Gresser,
We are writing on behalf of Schneider Electric to oppose institution of high tariffs on imported  solar panels.  Schneider Electric is leading the Digital Transformation of Energy Management and Automation in Homes, Buildings, Data Centers, Infrastructure and Industries, with $27 billion in revenues.

With global presence in over 100 countries, Schneider is a leader in Power Management – Medium Voltage, Low Voltage and Secure Power, and in Automation Systems. We provide integrated efficiency solutions, combining energy, automation and software.

We have 22 manufacturing facilities in the United States and employees in every state. Schneider Electric produces a wide variety of solar energy-based products from battery inverters, charge controllers, and quality balance of systems solutions, including a manufacturing facility in California.  Schneider Electric recognizes that the energy landscape in the US is changing, and to that effect we have over 1GW of installed solar capacity, and are leading the technological transition into energy storage and microgrids, investing tens of millions of dollars in product development on a yearly basis.  Just recently we completed an installation of 1,379 solar PV panels and associated inverters at our North America headquarters in Andover, Massachusetts, to convert 448 kW of direct current to alternating current.  Finally, the company incorporates solar in Energy Savings Performance Contracts for schools, hospitals, state, local and federal government facilities. 

We also advise customers on solar projects and incorporate solar into our energy efficiency and microgrid customer projects.   We currently support clients in the pursuit of utility-scale solar projects in all deregulated US states—including California, Virginia, and Texas.   Solar is also an integral part of microgrid installations in the US –an increasingly important market for national security and resilience purposes.  Schneider Electric is currently considered #1 microgrid installer of microgrids in the United States.

We don’t ask for appropriations funding from the government, and don’t seek special protections for our business, and we expect that our suppliers in the solar industry do the same.  The key to widespread solar adoption and growth in the US—and the associated economic activity and job creation—is having modules that are priced on par with conventional fuel sources such as gas and coal.

Imposition of tariffs on solar modules to protect only two companies will drive costs up for us and our clients, leading to project loss and lack of growth in the US.  The relative expense of domestic panels, even when supported by Federal subsidization, has been cost-prohibitive for US developers responding to the unprecedented demand for solar expansion.  Reliance on domestic panels would have significantly slowed solar growth at a time when consumers have clamored for it due to the falling cost and clean energy generation it produces.

The result will be a loss of economic activity and jobs—very detrimental to one of the fastest growing employment sectors, putting thousands of Americans to work.  SEIA estimates that 88,000 US jobs could be lost in the next year alone.

We hope that you consider a free market approach in your decision.

Large Solar Project In Texas Likely No More If Tariffs Imposed

HPPR

11/16/17

A large solar project in Texas has been put on hold and will likely be canceled if the Trump administration goes ahead with imposing tariffs on cheaper panels made in China.

As KUT reports, a 100-megawatt solar farm was being planned outside of Fort Stockton, Texas that would have brought 300 to 400 people at its peak but a threat of tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports would likely make the project too costly to pursue because solar panels account for about 40 percent of the cost of a solar plant.

The threat of tariffs started in September when the US International Trade Commission agreed with two US solar panel manufacturers that they were hurt by cheaper Chinese imports. To level the playing field, the commission supported imposing tariffs.

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