Spotlight Activity: President Trump Approves Tariffs on Solar Panels, Deals Blow to Renewable Energy in US
On January 22, 2018, President Trump approved tariffs on imported solar panels and other solar equipment made outside the US starting at 30% and dropping to 15% over the next four years. Claiming that he was protecting American jobs and promoting the growth of the American solar industry, President Trump touted the discrepancy between costs facing foreign and domestic producers as a strong reason in favor of instituting the tariffs.
The move came as a blow to the American solar industry and is already being blamed for the future loss of tens of thousands of jobs over the next year as well as a steep increase in solar prices facing American customers. However, a Chinese solar company announced one week after the approval of the tariffs that it would be building its new operations in the US, offering limited hope for the industry.
The American solar industry employed 250,271 American workers in 2017, and although the number declined 3.8% since 2016, the growth of the solar industry still outpaces the growth of the fossil fuel industry, with a large majority of these jobs in installation and sales rather than manufacturing. Before the announcement of the tariff, the industry was forecast to grow 5% in 2018.
Status: Falling Behind
A high tariff on solar panels will make them less attractive to utilities, businesses, and homeowners. With less incentive to employ solar power, American emissions will likely stay the same or rise over the next decade. It is imperative that the federal government encourage investment in renewables rather than discouraging it with discriminatory tariffs.