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Panel Recommends Extending Trump-Era Duties on Solar Panels

December 17, 2021 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration should extend tariffs on solar panel modules and cells an additional four years to safeguard U.S.-based solar panel manufacturers, a U.S. trade panel said.

Former President Donald Trump established the duties on Chinese-made photovoltaic modules and cells under the auspices of Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. 

The tariffs were set at 30% the first year they were in force, and scheduled to decline by five percentage points each of the three following years. 

The measures are currently scheduled to expire in February.

In a nearly 600-page report posted to its website this week, the U.S. International Trade Commission said that since the Trump administration imposed the sanctions in 2018 the domestic solar power manufacturing industry has grown dramatically.

It notes the industry has “upgraded and expanded its production capacity to produce CSPV modules, increased production, U.S. shipments, and employment, regained some market share, and improved its capacity utilization.”

But the report goes on to say, the industry’s weak financial performance along with pandemic-related challenges and other issues prevented it from making “additional adjustments.” 

In light of these facts, the commission recommended the president maintain the tariff on imports of modules with decreases of 0.25 percentage points scheduled on Feb. 7 for each of the next three years.

The commission also recommended maintaining the tariff-rate quota on cells with an in-quota volume level of 2.5 gigawatts and duties on above-quota volumes that decline by 0.25 percentage points each year.

But not everyone is happy about the proposal.

“Growing American solar manufacturing is critical to our long-term clean energy future, but years of tariffs have not moved the needle nearly enough to justify the USITC’s recommendation today,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a written statement. 

“We’re urging the president to take a different approach from his predecessor and enact real industrial policy to grow U.S. manufacturing. Senator Ossoff’s amendment in the Build Back Better Act will be the first investment our nation has made to truly incentivize domestic solar production after years of punitive import duties on U.S. companies,” Hopper said.

“Repeating the same mistake as the previous administration will inevitably lead to the same outcome and could offset some of the benefits in Build Back Better. It’s time to let these ineffective tariffs end and start a new era of American clean energy leadership,” she added.

Solar energy is a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s efforts to meet its climate goals. 

In September, the Department of Energy released a report that suggested solar power could provide up to 45% of electricity used in the U.S. by 2050.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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