International Trade Commission Puts Solar Growth in Trump’s Hands

A federal trade panel declared recently that surging imports of solar panels have hurt U.S. manufacturers. The ruling sets the opportunity for President Trump to issue tariffs.

solar-panels-894291_1920 800x620The International Trade Commission ruled that U.S. manufacturers are being hurt by the surging imports of solar panels. The ruling enables President Trump to tax imports from countries such as China.

The problem emerged in April when Georgia-based Suniva Inc., a majority-owned Chinese company, filed a trade complaint stating it had been put down by a flood of imports from Asia. After seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Suniva proposed trade officials to recommend new duties on imported solar products to oppose an oversupply of panels that has decreased prices and impeded American manufacturers capability to compete.

The Commission’s unanimous decision established that the companies SolarWorld Americans and Suniva have been struggling financially not due to internal management decisions, but because they couldn’t compete with the cheap solar panels imported from countries like China, Mexico and South Korea.

The American solar industry has grown massively in recent years and is now estimated to be worth $29 billion. The decision could have a big impact on this progress. According to a report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), during the decade between 2004 and 2014, solar energy nationwide grew from 500 megawatts to 20,000 megawatts. The number of utility-scale solar projects—both photovoltaic and concentrated solar power (CSP)— increased by more than 10-fold, growing from 100 projects to nearly 1,100 in that timeframe.

Following the vote, the Commission will further investigate the matter and hold a public hearing on October 3, 2017.