U.S. solar companies warn proposed tariffs would devastate new projects


Solar panels are seen at the Desert Stateline Project near Nipton, California, United States, August 16, 2021. REUTERS / Bridget Bennett

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September 22 (Reuters) – A U.S. solar industry group warned on Wednesday that tariffs on panels imported from three Asian countries would jeopardize nearly 30% of the solar capacity the country is expected to install over the two coming years.

The Commerce Department is set to decide by the end of September whether to launch a trade investigation into solar cells and modules from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. These countries account for 80% of all panel imports to the United States, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) said in a statement.

In a letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, SEIA said the rights – proposed by an anonymous group of domestic manufacturers last month – would be devastating for the growth of the renewable energy sector.

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“We cannot stress enough how damaging these tariffs would be to our businesses and the entire US solar industry,” said the letter signed by nearly 200 solar companies.

The tariffs would put 18 gigawatts (GW) of solar projects at risk by 2023, according to SEIA, enough to power around 3.4 million homes. US industry is expected to install a total of 63 GW in 2022 and 2023, according to a forecast by research firm Wood Mackenzie.

Last month, a group calling themselves U.S. solar manufacturers against Chinese circumvention asked the Commerce Department to investigate unfair imports from the three countries. They accuse Chinese producers of moving manufacturing to those countries to avoid US anti-dumping and countervailing duties on cells and panels made in China.

The companies requesting the survey and the rates did not identify themselves for fear of retaliation in the market.

The petition is the latest in a series of efforts by the small US solar power manufacturing sector to seek trade remedies to allow their products to compete with the cheaper Asian panels that dominate the market. The SEIA has for years opposed tariffs on imports of solar energy because these products have fueled the growth of the sector.

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Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Tom Hogue

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