President Biden’s announcement of a 24-month tariff exemption on solar modules manufactured in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, alongside his enactment of the Defense Production Act to accelerate American manufacturing serve as major boons for the near-term future of the solar industry.
So far, the decision has been met with praise across the solar industry, as the President’s actions are expected to get module imports flowing again. The decision provides a lifeline to the hundreds of MWs of solar projects that faced delays or cancellations due to sudden module supply constraints.
Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) president and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper commending the move in a statement.
“We applaud President Biden’s thoughtful approach to addressing the current crisis of the paralyzed solar supply chain,” said Hopper. “The president is providing improved business certainty today while harnessing the power of the Defense Production Act for tomorrow. Today’s actions protect existing solar jobs, will lead to increased employment in the solar industry and foster a robust solar manufacturing base here at home.“While the Department of Commerce investigation will continue as required by statute, and we remain confident that a review of the facts will result in a negative determination, the president’s action is a much-needed reprieve from this industry-crushing probe. During the two-year tariff suspension window, the U.S. solar industry can return to rapid deployment while the Defense Production Act helps grow American solar manufacturing.”
Hopper went on to highlight how critical establishing a domestic supply chain is to achieving both Biden and SEIA’s renewable energy and emission reduction goals and thanked SEIA’s members who raised awareness about the damage being done by the investigation.
Similar praise was shared by Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).
“Thanks to today’s actions by the White House, the American solar industry can finally get back to work driving economic growth, reducing electricity costs and lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” he said in a statement. “We thank the President and his staff for the vitally important relief he has provided for the nation’s solar sector. This welcome development follows months of needless disruption to one of the country’s fastest-growing sources of new jobs and best defenses against the threat of climate change. Now that we have a reprieve from the destructive impacts of the Commerce inquiry, we look forward to working with the administration and our allies in Congress to secure the enactment of policies that strengthen our domestic supply chain, such as the clean energy tax package currently being negotiated that provides advanced manufacturing tax credits and long-term tax incentives for renewable power.”
George Hershman, CEO of SOLV Energy, also applauded the announcement, but warned that any tariffs imposed as a result of the ongoing circumvention case after the freeze could still mean trouble for the industry.
“President Biden’s decisive leadership enables companies like mine to move forward on stalled projects and bring solar workers back to our jobsites,” said Hershman. “This announcement provides much needed clarity in the short-term on trade, and takes action on his promise to deploy more clean energy resources domestically while growing American manufacturing in the long-term.
“While I applaud the President for his leadership in building a brighter future today, the lingering threat of tariffs stemming from the ongoing circumvention case will continue to jeopardize our clean energy progress. I strongly urge the Department of Commerce to work toward a swift end to this case and put the solar industry fully back to work.”
8minute Solar Energy
Much like Hershman, Tom Buttgenbach, CEO and Founder of 8minute Solar Energy sees the action as an opportunity to kickstart development and prove the near-term certainty to the industry to keep projects viable.
“Less than a year ago, the Biden Administration introduced an ambitious and necessary plan to address climate change,” said Buttgenbach. “We applaud today’s decision by the President to remove the near-term threat of new panel import tariffs as an absolutely essential step towards achieving these goals. Solar is a critical lifeline for both our climate and our economy – generating reliable, affordable energy that provides good-paying American jobs and economic value. With this decision, 8minute and the broader solar industry can resume the massive momentum we have built this past decade – deploying the most advanced and responsive energy technologies to support the country’s clean energy goals.”
American Clean Power Association
While some have criticized the President’s action as undermining American Solar manufacturing by prioritizing imports, Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association (ACP) is of the opinion that the tariff freeze and enactment of the Defense Production Act will provide a net positive for American manufacturers.
“President Biden’s proclamation today to use the full power of executive authority to jumpstart the domestic solar industry is a bold act of leadership. It recognizes the immediate need to protect middle-class American jobs, promote U.S. energy independence, protect consumers from rising electricity bills in the face of inflation, and stay true to his climate commitments.”
Zichal went on to say, “The President’s announcement will rejuvenate the construction and domestic manufacturing of solar power by restoring predictability and business certainty that the Department of Commerce’s flawed inquiry has disrupted. This action is necessary due to the inconsistent and archaic regulatory process at the Department of Commerce that has frozen the U.S. solar industry. Alongside over 100 Governors and Members of Congress, the American Clean Power Association continues to call on Secretary Raimondo to conclude the inquiry swiftly and to use the Secretary’s legal authority to reaffirm a decade of precedent previously set by the Department of Commerce.
“The U.S. solar industry is actively making investments to further increase the scale of the domestic manufacturing sector, including recent announcements to expand U.S. module production facilities, create new manufacturing plants for components like steel trackers, and work with allied trading partners to unlock the potential for inputs (like polysilicon) from the United States. As one example, ACP has exclusively learned that a large U.S. developer is pursuing a domestic solar panel manufacturing facility that could have up to 5GW of production. Panel production at this facility would begin by the fall of 2023 and would put 1,000 American workers on the job building America’s clean energy future.
“The President’s actions today make those investments possible, and the policies contained in the reconciliation bill would only hasten the pace of building a more robust domestic solar manufacturing sector.”
Center for Biological Diversity
Jean Su, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice program shared her hope that Biden’s executive action will lead to more climate- and renewable energy-focused action from a federal level.
“Biden’s executive moves give critical momentum to the needed transition to solar energy,” Su said. “We hope this use of the Defense Production Act is a turning point for the president, who must use all his executive powers to confront the climate emergency head on. While pausing tariffs will bring in much-needed solar panels quickly, it’s also vital for the U.S. to ramp up domestic manufacturing with strong labor practices so we don’t support slave-labor manufacturing abroad. Biden needs to follow through on these promising actions by using every tool at hand for a rapid phaseout of violent fossil fuels and robust development of a just, renewable energy system.”
“We’re encouraged by the Biden Administration’s recognition of the crisis our industry is facing and taking the immediate necessary steps to protect the crippled solar supply chain and the thousands of solar workers who would be adversely affected by these tariffs. By providing this two-year reprieve from the Department of Commerce probe and nurturing market growth via the Defense Production Act, his administration allows us to return to the vital business of developing solar projects and forwarding our country’s clean energy transition.”
Nat Kreamer, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy applauded Biden’s action that is expected provide stability for the solar industry moving forward.
“This is a needed stay in a more than decade-long tariff war that has been a loser for all parties,” said Kreamer. “Tariffs only raise costs for consumers and don’t create domestic demand for clean energy. These announcements today provide much-needed stability to the solar industry and the clean energy transition at large, and send the message to Congress that now is the time to act urgently to build the clean energy domestic manufacturing industry this country needs to protect consumers and become energy independent.
“Investments in clean energy technologies, like the ones announced today by the White House, will help develop a robust, U.S.-based advanced energy manufacturing industry that can bolster the middle class, revitalize communities hollowed out by decades of deindustrialization, and expand economic opportunity in frontline communities.”
Samantha Sloan, Vice President of Policy for First Solar, which manufactures in the US, expressed her company’s disappointment at what she sees as an undermining of American manufacturing.
“First Solar is deeply disappointed in today’s announcement, which only benefits China’s state-subsidized solar industry,” she said.
“Today’s proclamation directly undermines American solar manufacturing by giving unfettered access to China’s state-subsidized solar companies for the next two years. This sends the message that companies can circumvent American laws and that the US government will let them get away with it as long as they’re backed by deep-pocketed political pressure campaigns.
“Furthermore, the use of the Defense Production Act to boost solar manufacturing is an ineffective use of taxpayer dollars and falls well short of a durable solar industrial policy, such as the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act, which the administration has so far failed to deliver. Quite simply, the administration cannot stick a band-aid on the issue and hope that it goes away. Had the administration consulted with America’s solar manufacturers, they would have known as much.”
For Morten Lund, Stoel Rives’ Energy Partner, the enacting of federal procurement measures to drive domestic manufacturing could have an even bigger impact than the tariff freeze.
“Postponing the effectiveness of a potential tariff expansion is a big deal and this freeze seems to indicate it would effectively kill the retroactive portion of the tariffs. That takes care of the uncertainty issue, which frankly is at least as important as the tariff itself. Development and procurement has slowed significantly in advance of the tariff ruling, and this gives the industry price certainty which will allow us to proceed with development effects. This benefit is not just for the duration of the freeze, but also thereafter—if there is a tariff expansion this year, we will have two years to prepare for it and price it into projects. It would actually be a significant benefit if all tariffs came into effect this way, with a lead-up transition. The inability to plan ahead always causes a temporary pause and is very harmful.
“The mention of using federal procurement to drive domestic manufacturing is potentially more significant than the DPA both in the near and long term. The US federal government is arguably the largest energy purchaser in the world, and leveraging that purchasing power could have immediate and profound impacts.”
Not only are utility-scale developers lauding the president’s actions, but Aaron Halimi, founder and president of community solar developer, Renewable Properties, says the tariff exemption will provide certainty to the community solar market, too.
“As a community solar developer with active projects throughout the U.S., Renewable Properties is relieved to hear that President Biden has placed a 24-month tariff exemption on imported solar panels while supporting domestic supply chains and the growth of U.S. manufacturing,” said Halimi. “The President’s actions not only bring certainty to solar development, but they will also decrease the costs of developing solar projects while supporting local construction jobs.”
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