Opponents of the Suniva-SolarWorld trade case have a new, and perhaps surprising, set of allies: conservative policy groups. The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have come out against the recent petition to impose tariffs on imported crystalline silicon solar products, joining in a coalition with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and others. Mounting dissent from across the political spectrum could help convince Republican President Donald Trump to refuse the introduction of trade barriers.
A broad industry and conservative coalition launched Friday to fight potential tariffs on imported solar panels. Energy Trade Action Coalition includes mainly non-solar companies, along with trade associations, utilities, retailers, unions, conservative groups and others. … “Tariffs meant to protect one industry can, and often do, have significant damaging effects on other domestic industries,” Tori Whiting, research associate at the Heritage Foundation, said in a statement announcing the new coalition.
Boosting U.S. manufacturing is a laudable goal, and a thriving solar industry would potentially help balance out job losses in dirtier energy technologies like coal. But putting a tariff on solar panels would also risk slowing the expansion of solar power in the country, including here in S.C. where solar power installations increased by almost 300 percent last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The S.C. Solar Business Alliance sent letters to U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott last month asking both Republicans to oppose a request by a bankrupt solar panel manufacturer that could place hefty tariffs on cheaper imports from Mexico, Canada and China. … The petition for trade relief, filed by the bankrupt manufacturer Suniva with the International Trade Commission, already has split the United States’ solar industry. Bigger manufacturers, such as Solarworld, the country’s largest producer of panels, is supporting the request, while smaller-scale solar installers oppose it since cost-boosting tariffs could ruin much of their business. “We do know that any actions that artificially raise the price of solar modules will have a substantial negative impact on one of South Carolina’s fastest growing industries, wiping out years of growth in the process,” Jarrett Branham, the vice chairman of South Carolina’s solar business alliance, told the senators.
Proposed tariffs of 40 cents per watt on solar cells and a minimum price of 78 cents a watt on solar photovoltaic (PV) modules would drive up prices for solar panels for residential consumers, corporate customers, and electric utilities. This is after prices have dropped significantly over the last five years. The cost of PV modules dropped nearly 34 percent in just the first half of 2016, according to GTM Research.