Republican U.S. Senators Fight For Solar Tariff Exclusions

Citing the preservation of American jobs, several Republican U.S. senators are urging the Trump administration to exclude 72-cell, 1,500-volt solar panels from the 30% tariffs recently imposed on solar products.

In a May 9 letter to Rick Perry, secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy; Robert Lighthizer, U.S. trade representative (USTR); and Wilbur Ross, secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; and Tim Scott, R-S.C., wrote as follows:

“We are writing to express our appreciation for the president’s recent initiatives to protect U.S. manufacturers against unfair competition from foreign imports. We are grateful that, in the proclamation imposing safeguard measures on solar product imports, President Trump thoughtfully included a process for excluding certain products. Under the president’s directive, the U.S. Trade Representative is to assess the scope of products covered by the solar tariff and appropriately amend the Harmonized Tariff Schedule when its application would result in unintended consequences that ultimately diminish growth.”

Thillis, who led the letter, notes in a press release that North Carolina has the second-largest solar footprint of any state in the nation and has over 7,622 solar jobs.

In the letter, the senators explain that an exclusion of 72-cell, 1,500-volt solar panels would “preserve tens of thousands of existing solar manufacturing and development jobs, foster market expansion, and allow the U.S. to once again fairly compete in the global marketplace for energy production technologies.”

Furthermore, citing the International Trade Commission, the lawmakers point out that utility-scale solar is “acutely price-sensitive”: Its price is either “set at the utilities’ lowest avoided cost by state public service commissions in regulated markets, or it is the lone base for competition with other integrated forms of generation in deregulated markets.”

In turn, an increase in prices as a result of the tariff could “deter private investment and disrupt efforts to integrate utility-scale solar in electrical grids and utility markets nationwide,” they warn.

In conclusion, the legislators say, “We very much appreciate your consideration of this request. Solar industry participants in our states stand ready to work with you to support the continued growth of U.S. solar manufacturing.”

Last month, the Solar Energy Industries Association submitted formal comments to the USTR regarding the Trump administration’s consideration of exclusions. The group, warning that its member companies – and, thus, jobs – have already been impacted by the tariffs, expressed support for exclusions from tariff coverage for products that are not, and are not expected to be, manufactured in adequate quantities in the U.S.

The full letter from the senators can be found here.

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