President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported cells and modules has been denounced by large sections of the solar industry, with the notable exception of the small number of cell and module makers who will benefit.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which has been lobbying overtime against the tariffs, was predictably not pleased with the outcome. “While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper.
Vote Solar, which has been more visible in state-level policy fights, call the tariffs “misguided”.
“There are a lot of ways to further support the growth of U.S. renewable energy manufacturing; this job-killing tariff is not one of them,” stated Vote Solar Executive Director Adam Browning. “Instead, this misguided decision to impose tariffs on solar products will negatively impact thousands of workers who depend on solar to support their families, and it will hurt American competitiveness in the global economy.”
However, what Trump has imposed is far from the most severe option. The president had the option to impose 50% ad valorem tariffs on cells and modules, and additionally to impose restrictive quotas, per SolarWorld’s proposal. Instead, in an uncharacteristic move for the Trump Administration, the tariffs appear to show a level of restraint.
According to GTM Research, tariffs at this level will result in only a 11% reduction in the U.S. solar market over the next few years. Critically, there is an exemption for the first 2.5 GW of cells imported, which will provide a lifeline for the 14 U.S. module makers such as Mission Solar that make modules, but not cells. This will also keep Suniva from dominating the U.S. cell market.
SolarWorld issued a more cautious statement.
“SolarWorld Americas appreciates the hard work of President Trump, the U.S. Trade Representative, and this administration in reaching today’s decision, and the President’s recognition of the importance of solar manufacturing to America’s economic and national security,” said Juergen Stein, president of SolarWorld Americas. “We are still reviewing these remedies and are hopeful they will be enough to address the import surge and to rebuild solar manufacturing in the United States.”
“We will work with the U.S. Government to implement these remedies, including future negotiations, in the strongest way possible to benefit solar manufacturing and its thousands of American workers to ensure that U.S. solar manufacturing is world-class competitive for the long term,” Stein added.