Bipartisan Senators request increased tariffs on solar imports from China

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In a joint letter to President Joe Biden, Senators Ossoff (D-GA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) urged for the increase of tariffs on solar modules, cells and wafers imported from China. The Senators said Biden can increase tariffs via the Trade Act of 1974.

The Senators argue that the United States cannot price-compete with China for solar panels, which Wood Mackenzie reported fetch an average price of $0.15 per W. This is about 60% cheaper than the average U.S.-made panel.

The United States has shown a commitment to nearshoring its clean energy supply chain for national security and energy security purposes. The U.S. supports domestic solar manufacturing through component-level production tax credits, demand-side tax credit adders with domestic content adders, and more. However, the Senators argue that China’s heavy subsidization of its solar industry makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to compete.

Bloomberg reported that China installed 216.9 GW of solar last year, eclipsing its record of 87.4 GW from the previous year. This equates to more solar installed in one year than the United States has achieved in its entire history.

“China’s aggressive subsidies for its own solar manufacturing industry demonstrate its intent to control the industry globally. By 2026, China will have enough capacity to meet annual global demand for the next ten years. This capacity is an existential threat to the U.S. solar industry and American energy security,” said the letter to the President.

Since the United States passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which contained Ossoff’s Solar Energy Manufacturing for America (SEMA) bill, the U.S. has announced over 162 major manufacturing projects, leading to over 60,000 estimated jobs and over $60.7 billion in investments announced. Many of these announcements include global companies setting up manufacturing operations in the United States for the first time.

Despite this unprecedented level of investment in U.S. clean energy manufacturing, many of these projects are announcements and are in early stages. The Senators argue more needs to be done to level the playing field.

“These heavily subsidized and artificially low prices put U.S. solar manufacturers at an extreme disadvantage during a critical turning point in the development of the domestic solar manufacturing industry. Section 301 tariffs are needed to avoid dire consequences not only for our economic and national security, but also for the thousands of workers employed by these manufacturers,” said the letter.

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