The U.S. International Trade Commission has sent three choices for restricting the import of solar photovoltaic panels to the desk of Donald Trump, threatening to squelch the booming industry. Whichever path the protectionist White House chooses, Reuters writes, it is likely to “significantly restrict imports and affect the price of U.S. solar power.”
The decision responds to an appeal brought by Suniva Inc., a bankrupt, Chinese-owned U.S. solar panel maker in Georgia. The four-member Commission ruled unanimously last month that low-cost solar module imports had damaged Suniva’s business, but evidently could not all agree on a single remedy. Instead, the commissioners sent Trump three to choose from.
“Two commissioners urged an immediate 30% tariff on completed solar modules,” and a 30% tariff on solar cells imported above a quota of one gigawatt, both declining after the first year, Reuters reports. Commission Chair Rhonda Schmidtlein recommended a module tariff of 35% for at least 48 months, as well as a 10% tariff on solar cell imports up to 0.5 gigawatts, and 30% for imports beyond that—declining over a four-year period.
“In the most lenient recommendation,” the news agency notes, a fourth commissioner called for a ‘four-year quota system that allows for imports of up to 8.9 gigawatts of solar cells and modules in the first year.”
Trump was expected to make his choice by early next year. Any protectionist move could imperil the employment of rooftop installation, solar farm development, and other businesses that employ 85% of the industry’s 260,000 workers.
The tariff could “double the price of solar, destroy two-thirds of demand, erode billions of dollars in investment, and unnecessarily force 88,000 Americans to lose their jobs in 2018,” Solar Energy Industries Association President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper warned when the Commission made its initial ruling of injury in September.