Science

President Trump turns out the lights on solar panel imports into US

Tariff jacks up price for overseas components

By Shaun Nichols in San Francisco

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US President Donald Trump has signed an order to place a 30 per cent tariff on the import of parts used to build solar panels.

The new charges, pitched on Monday by the White House as relief for domestic manufacturers, are instead being slammed by US solar industry groups as an effort to destroy the solar energy market in America.

Under the tariff, announced by US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, solar cells and modules will be charged an extra 30 per cent in the first year, then 25 per cent, 20 per cent, and 15 per cent in subsequent years, when imported into the States.

The Trade Representative's office claims the move is being done to keep American manufacturers competitive with Chinese companies looking to take over the market.

"Today, China dominates the global supply chain and, by its own admission, is looking to increase its capacity to account for 70 percent of total planned global capacity expansions announced in the first half of 2017," the office said.

According to solar industry groups, however, the decision is going to have the opposite effect, crippling many solar energy companies in the US by placing a heavy charge on vital components.

The Solar Energy Industry Association claimed that just 2,000 of the 38,000 solar manufacturing jobs in the US are involved in building cells and panels, meaning many solar companies in the Land of the Free are dependent on imported cells and panels to do their jobs. By making those parts more expensive to obtain, the group estimates as many as 23,000 jobs are in danger.

Another solar industry group, Vote Solar, claimed that in the solar energy hotbed of Nevada up to 8,000 workers stand to be impacted.

"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," said 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." ®

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