POTUS deals blow to solar industry with Trumped up tariffs

US President Donald Trump has approved a steep tariff on imported solar energy components in a setback for the domestic renewable energy industry.

The decision was rationalised by a motive to protect the domestic manufacturing sector in the US, and also involves an even sharper tariff on imported washing machines, in the face of rising imports from the Asian market.

In the solar industry, a 30% tariff will be imposed on imported solar cells and modules in the first year, before the extra cost declines to 15% by the fourth year.

The tariff does allow 2.5GW of unassembled solar cells to be imported tariff-free during each year of the levy.

However, the tariff is set to damage the national solar energy sector which has witnessed significant growth in recent years and is now beginning to reach price parity with fossil fuels such as coal.

The solar industry also created one in 50 new jobs in the US over 2016.

MJ Shiao, head of renewable energy research for Wood Mackenzie, said the tariffs would likely reduce projected US solar installations by 10-15% over the next five years.

“It is a significant impact, but certainly not destructive to the end market,” said Shiao.

Nonetheless, domestic solar panel producers like Suniva and SolarWorld petitioned for tariffs of 50% to be applied to imported components, citing cheap Chinese imports as damaging to their business.