National bill could stop this tariff nonsense now

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By Tony Clifford

As most of you know, the Trump Administration has already done serious damage to the solar industry with the insane tariffs it imposed on foreign imports of solar modules.

Just talking about the tariffs cost the industry 9,800 jobs last year, and everyone is bracing for 2018’s numbers, where we are hoping for the best but fearing the worst. It is one of the most wrong-headed trade decisions any administration could have made, and to make it about a proven job-creating industry like solar was mind-boggling.

And now Congress, in a rare show of bipartisanship (see what a uniting force solar is?), five Representatives have introduced House Resolution (H.R.) 5571, the appropriately named “Protecting American Solar Jobs Act,” which would prevent more damage from being done.

In contrast with most Congressional legislation, this one weighs in at only five pages, but oh, what a powerful five pages they are.

The first three pages essentially outline from the entire House of Representatives what the rest of us already know about solar—that it is a job creator, that it currently employs about 225,000 people and that the majority of those jobs are in downstream installation, sales, engineering and marketing (among other categories).

What it does not note is that while there are solar manufacturing jobs in the United States, they are not in the module segment of the industry—they’re just in almost every other part of the industry that uses hard goods.

It cites the Solar Energy Industries Association’s predictions of 23,000 job losses resulting from the tariffs, and cites GTM Research’s study saying the tariffs will reduce installed solar capacity by 11% and remove billions of dollars in solar investment from the economy.

So, you know, it highlights all the problems with the tariffs that I’ve been screaming about for more than a year. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it does something to mitigate the damage the tariffs have done.

The bill, sponsored by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mark Sanford (R-SC), Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Steve Knight (R-CA), would not only halt the tariffs in their tracks, but it would make the remedy retroactive. In other words, for those companies against whom tariffs have already levied would get their money back.

I know some industry observers have pointed to a handful of company expansions and one notable promised factory as evidence that the tariffs are bringing jobs back to the United States. Wishful thinking, however, won’t bring back the jobs that have been lost, nor will it magically create jobs to replace them.

What the solar industry needs right now is relief from these odious tariffs, and this bill is the perfect vehicle to get that job done. Call your Congressional representatives now and let them know that we want them to support this bill—and let them know we’ll be watching.

And it can’t hurt to remind them there’s an election coming up, and their stand on solar will go a long way to helping you make up your mind about for whom you will cast your vote.

 

Tony Clifford is the Chief Development Officer at Standard Solar, and since 2007 Mr. Clifford has led Standard Solar’s rapid growth into a nationally known PV developer and finance firm. He began his career at Solarex Corporation, later acquired by British Petroleum (BP Solar). He is a board member of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), serves on SEIA’s Executive Committee and also served as the president of the regional chapter, MDV-SEIA from 2009 to 2012. Additionally he serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of pv magazine USA.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.