Trumps Plan For Solar Panel Tariffs


Here are the facts around Trumps decision to impose tariffs on the solar panel industry. It was announced 1/23/18 that US President, Donald Trump, approved plans to place tariffs on imported solar cells and modules.

This is a move that has been in the making for the last year since Trumps inauguration into office. The case started back in May 17th, 2017 when Suniva (Now bankrupt) and SolarWorld. Both American solar panel manufacturing firms. Filed petitions with the International Trade Commission. The petition enacted section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act. This act was signed into law under the Gerald Ford Administration. The law permits the President to grant temporary import relief, by raising import duties or imposing non-tariff barriers on goods entering the United States that injure or threaten to injure domestic industries producing like goods.

This petition aligned with Trumps “ America First” platform that brought much controversy during this election campaign in 2017. So this ruling does not come as a surprise to industry insiders.

You can find the entire 500 page petition here. 


The plan for tariffs will breakdown like this. A 30% tariff on foreign solar panels will be in effect starting February 7th, 2018.  There will be a 5% decrease in the tariff every year for 3 years. The tariff ends altogether on the start of the 5th year (2023). The USA's preexisting NAFTA agreement will not be honored (Mexico and Canada will be taxed). Only WTO "developing countries" are exempt - there are currently no large scale PV manufacturing in any of them

This is a clear-cut case of protectionism propping up a US industry that foreign rivals have far out-competed in the marketplace. The majority of solar panels in the United States have been imported from Brazil, Canada, and China.

These foreign made solar panels have significantly brought down the cost of solar energy. Putting solar energy cost right on par with fossil fuel energy costs. Many credit these affordable foreign made solar panels with the growing popularity of solar energy.  

See some of our earlier coverage on the case here.

Many in opposition to the Presidents ruling predict that these tariffs will effectively double the price of solar panels and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs. Whether or not the tariffs will have an adverse effect on solar energy demand and in turn solar jobs – is yet to be seen.

The verdict over the ultimate effect of this ruling will be determined in large part by the ability of US firms to compete with their foreign rivals. Or risk slowing down the US renewable energy progress that so many countries around the world are embracing.

Comment below with your take on the case.