Landmark Trade Case Threatens US Solar Industry

A landmark trade case decision involving solar tariffs advanced on Sept 22, as the US International Trade Commission (USITC) voted unanimously that there has been significant injury in a trade petition filed by domestic solar panel manufacturers Suniva Solar and SolarWorld. Both companies have declared bankruptcy.

This closely watched decision threatens the US solar industry. Although the Suniva-SolarWorld complaint maintains that US based solar manufacturing will grow as a result of the proposed tariffs, the vast majority of the US solar industry disagrees. The president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) states that increasing prices of solar panels will drastically reduce demand, triggering the loss of some 80,000 domestic jobs in nearly 9,000 related solar businesses, potentially doubling the cost of US solar installations.

The case moves now into the remedy phase, where the USITC will determine what remedies should be imposed on foreign manufactured solar cells and panels. The petitioners are asking for minimum tariffs of $.78 per watt for finished solar panels, and $.40 per watt for solar cells. The commission has until November to recommend specific actions to the Trump Administration, which would then have two months to issue a decision on specific trade tariffs. This presents a major test of the president’s “America First” trade agenda.

The solar industry has weathered many storms over the past decade, but we are entering a period of great uncertainty. Green Newton strongly supports development of residential photovoltaic installations, and urges residents considering solar projects to complete those projects in 2017. With the threat of foreign tariffs and the sunset of the state SREC program, projects will likely cost more in 2018. Green Newton has partnered with several solar suppliers and offers information and preferred pricing on residential solar installations through their Newton Goes Solar program.

For more information, see www.NewtonGoesSolar.org or call the Newton Goes Solar hotline at 617-614-7892.

By Craig Forman
Green Newton board member and Chair of Newton Goes Solar, a Green Newton Initiative.