U.S. regulators are considering a demand to impose tariffs on solar modules and panels imported from Southeast Asia, an effort according to solar advocates that would stifle industry expansion and threaten growth. Arkansas has known for the past five years.
The US Department of Commerce is considering a petition asking for additional fees for solar components imported via Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Commerce Department officials are weighing the advisability of opening an investigation that could lead to tariffs ranging from 50% to 250%, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national lobbying group bringing the industry together to fight the effort.
“These tariffs, which are currently under consideration by the Commerce Department, would deal a serious blow, perhaps a fatal blow, to the entire US solar industry,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and chief of the management of the industrial group.
Arkansas solar leaders are monitoring the problem and note that additional costs could slow the state’s continued growth in solar power.
“It will hurt the industry if only to create price uncertainty,” said Heather Nelson, president of the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, on Wednesday. “I don’t think it’s killing job growth, but it could definitely slow it down.”
Likewise, Bill Halter, CEO of Scenic Hill Solar in Little Rock, said the pricing issue would increase costs for solar power providers because modules are the biggest cost in a project.
“There is already a consequence in the market for some existing tariffs and restrictions and if the additional restrictions were added to imports… it would have a very dramatic effect on the price of modules in the United States,” he said. “The whole market would increase up to that post-tariff price. You would definitely have a price increase for all of the projects.”
U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen, the Democrat of Nevada who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion, announced on Wednesday that she was rallying her fellow Senate colleagues to a letter urging Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, to assess the validity of petitions submitted anonymously. increase tariffs. The letter was signed by 11 other senators, none from Arkansas.
“We are writing to express our concerns about recent anonymous petitions alleging illegal business activities filed with the Department of Commerce that would have a devastating impact on the US solar industry and US solar jobs,” the letter reads. “Given the significant negative effects of imposing new tariffs on imported solar products, we implore you to carefully assess the validity of these petitions… and to determine whether it is appropriate to initiate an investigation into this matter. “
In Arkansas, solar power generation has exploded from 18.2 megawatts in 2015 to over 380 megawatts last year. The association predicts that usage will reach over 520 megawatts this year and exceed 1,000 megawatts by 2023.
On the jobs front, the Arkansas Energy Association says solar-related jobs increased 23% statewide over the same period, providing jobs to more than 300 Arkansans.
New tariffs “would cripple the US solar industry and ruin US plans to fight climate change,” according to the National Solar Industry Association.
In a separate letter to Raimondo, more than 190 U.S. solar companies urged the Commerce Department not to open a trade investigation.
The industry, which is asking the Commerce Department to dismiss the petition, says the tariffs would reduce the use of solar energy in the United States by nearly a third over the next two years. The move would also stifle job creation for solar projects, cutting around 45,000 jobs from 2023 projections.
“We cannot stress enough how damaging these tariffs would be to our businesses and the entire US solar industry,” the letter said.