Trump's Tariffs on Solar Mark Biggest Blow to Renewables Yet



President Donald Trump dealt his biggest blow to the renewable energy industry yet.

On Monday, Trump approved duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made outside the U.S., a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80 percent of its supply. 

The tariffs are the latest action by Trump to undermine the economics of renewables. The administration already decided to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, sought to roll back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and signed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind. The import taxes are the most targeted strike on the industry yet and may have larger consequences for the energy world.

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Trump’s Import Tariff A Victory For Chinese Solar Panel Maker Shunfeng

China Money Network


It’s not often that the U.S. imposes steep tariffs on imports and Chinese companies get to celebrate. But that’s exactly what’s happened when Donald Trump announced a 30% import tariff on solar energy panels today.

Suniva Inc., which widely advertises its products as “made in America,” was one of two U.S.-based solar panel makers to successfully petition the Trump administration to impose the tariffs, arguing that cheap imports of had pushed the company into bankruptcy.

But while its true that Suniva, headquartered in Norcross, Georgia, was founded in the U.S. and manufactures in the U.S., it is in fact 63% owned by Chinese conglomerate Shunfeng International Clean Energy, which is traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

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Trump Slaps Steep Tariffs on Foreign Washing Machines and Solar Products

Washington Post


President Trump slapped steep tariffs on imports of washing machines and solar energy cells and panels on Monday, the first major step by the administration to erect the kind of trade barriers Mr. Trump has frequently said are necessary to protect manufacturers in the United States.

The twin announcements came after a year of tough rhetoric — but little action — on curbing imports of cheap products from countries like China and South Korea.

White House advisers warned that additional trade measures related to steel, aluminum and other products from China could be coming, a signal that Mr. Trump is ratcheting up the protectionist policies he has long espoused as part of his “America First” approach.

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Solar trade case decision this week: Do these last second appeals, long-shot deals have a chance?

Solar Builder


The outcome of the solar industry’s Suniva/SolarWorld trade case is due Friday, Jan. 26, and the speculation about the decision and last second backroom dealings are running wild. Here’s everything we’ve seen in the last few days.

The solar industry sent along its final attempts at explaining 1) why tariffs will harm the industry and hurt job creation and 2) why tariffs will not only not boost manufacturing, but will only bail out two bankrupt foreign-owned companies.

One attempt was from the Energy Trade Action Coalition, whose members include U.S. manufacturers and workers across the entire solar energy supply chain. The letter the group sent highlights the small place Chinese imports have in the current U.S. market, and then refutes the idea that 41 companies went out of business because of unfair competition from imports.

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Malaysia, Korea and Vietnam dominate U.S. solar imports (w/ chart)

PV Magazine


One of the most interesting wrinkles in the Section 201 trade case is the shift in import patterns that has happened in recent years. While much of the rhetoric of petitioners has focused on Chinese companies evading tariffs and seeking to dominate the global market, much of the imports that are coming to the United States market are not from China. Instead, they are from other Asian nations – and some of these imports are from companies founded and headquartered in the United States.

Recent trade data compiled by the Energy Trade Action Coalition shows that by far the largest single source of U.S. solar cell and module imports is Malaysia, with a total of $1.4 billion in product shipped to the United States during the first 11 months of 2017. Korea came in second with $951 million in imports, and Vietnam third with $643 million. China was the fourth-largest source of imports at $487 million.

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

Las Vegas Sun


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


  • 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


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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