US solar sector asks Biden to end ‘punitive and ill-conceived’ bifacial tariffs

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President Biden has already signed a series of executive orders to ramp up the US’ energy transition. Image: Joe Biden/Twitter

Dozens of chief executives in the renewable energy sector have demanded that US President Joe Biden repeal the tariff hike Donald Trump’s Administration placed on solar panel imports last year.

The letter, signed by CEOs from companies including Clearway Energy Group, Lightsource BP, 8minute Solar Energy and EDF Renewables, calls for an end to Trump’s “punitive and ill-conceived” tariff rate increase and new tariff on imported bifacial panels which came into effect this year.

The US imposed 30% tariffs on imported solar modules in February 2018 to ostensibly support its domestic manufacturing industry, but instead sparked reports of “devastating harm” to the sector and prompted a legal battle with Canadian solar businesses. The Section 201 tariffs had gradually decreased since their implementation and fell to around 20% last year.

The open letter said the Section 201 tariffs have stifled job creation in the solar sector and “hindered our ability to address the climate crisis”, estimating that 62,000 new hires could have been made without their implementation.

They were due to fall again to 15% at the start of 2021, but last October, Trump put plans in motion to raise the tariffs coming into effect to 18%, and remove an exemption for bifacial solar panels, which now also carry 20% tariffs.

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and chief executive of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said that “billions of dollars’” worth of solar contracts have been put at risk because of the latest adjustment to the rate.

“As we confront the numerous economic and climate challenges ahead, the President has the opportunity to build a clean energy economy with millions of well-paying jobs, strengthen our nation’s infrastructure, bolster domestic manufacturing, and uplift communities across America. Removing the tariffs are the first step to achieving this vision.”

The US solar sector has largely welcomed President Biden due to his action on climate change and support of renewable energy industries. The newly elected leader signed a string of Executive Orders last month to ramp up the US’ climate action, including a directive to all federal agencies that they must procure “carbon pollution-free electricity” alongside zero-emission vehicles, and a pause on new leases for oil and natural gas projects on public lands and offshore waters. Biden has also set a target to for the US reach 100% carbon‐free electricity generation by 2035.

The open letter from the solar sector “applauded” Biden’s efforts in his first few weeks in office, but added that renewable capacity deployment would need to increase eightfold to meet the 2035 deadline.

“To meet this ambitious target, our nation must deploy 1,200 gigawatts of wind, solar, and energy storage, which necessitates building at an annual pace that is nearly eight times faster than the past decade.”

Heather Zichal, president of the American Clean Power Association and one of the signatories of the letter, said that “every single” member of the solar workforce in the US will benefit from the repeal of the October 2020 tariff hike, which she added had “injected uncertainty into the marketplace”.

“Rolling back this proclamation will put Americans back to work, reviving manufacturing, and putting us on the pathway to an equitable recovery and a clean energy future.”

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