New Tariffs on Solar Imports Could Hurt Green Energy in the U.S.

In late January, the Trump administration announced the implementation of a 30% tax on the majority of foreign-made solar panels imported to the United States.

Despite objections from solar trade groups, the change has been made by the administration as an attempt to allow American manufacturers more easily compete with less expensive imports. The tax is structured to work by being approved for the course of four years, in which 2.5 gigawatts of imported solar cells will be accepted into the country tariff-free. A 30% rate will take effect following, with values falling to 15% over four years.

For the past decade, certain policy decisions counter to the ones recently proposed by Trump have seen the solar industry take on rapid and steady growth across the globe. Solar energy costs dropped roughly 85% between 2009 and 2016, proving the industry to be the fastest-growing new-energy resource in modern times. Additionally, the decrease in solar costs has provided greater accessibility for Americans to invest in renewable energy while also curbing their overall emissions.  

The new tariff will likely threaten such progress, according to reports. New York Magazine says a 10% increase will heighten the cost of solar energy in the U.S., with the price increase prohibiting the use and sale of solar-efficient products based on expense. Overall, a loss of more than 20,000 jobs within the solar industry can be expected due to the imposed tariff, with widespread stagnation taking place as panel installation requests fall short.

Analyst Amy Grace summarized the potential consequences of this move when she recently testified before the International Trade Commission, saying, “Any increase in price in the future will negatively impact how much solar is installed in the United States, as well as the companies and people that rely on access to competitively priced solar equipment for their livelihood.”