The Import Tariff and the U.S. Solar Industry

a guest post by Bob Haughton, Vice President of Business Development at ONTILITY

The Import Tariff and the US Solar Industry

For quite some time now, we’ve heard talk about the upcoming import tariff on Chinese-made solar panels being the “right thing” to do to support the U.S. job market. While in theory the ideal of limiting any product that floods the U.S. market taking away manufacturing jobs from U.S. companies is generally sound, this particular line of thinking doesn’t hold muster when applied to the U.S. solar industry.

There are only a couple of solar companies that manufacture cells in the U.S. and in terms of what impact that imports have on the U.S. job market, these couple of companies actually only employ no more than 2,000 people combined. Out of the 142,000 people employed in the U.S. solar industry, that percentage is relatively small considering that the rest of the employed in the industry are active in the business of marketing, installing and servicing solar panel installations for residential, commercial and utility scale projects.

How exactly does the tariff affect the industry then? Well, take into consideration the fact that the proposed Anti-Dumping tariff may kick in on July 1, 2014 and that this is already beginning to negatively impact the U.S. solar market since installers cannot sell and finance an installation when costs cannot be accurately estimated. The uncertainty is even now reducing business activity and shows a very strong potential to affect U.S. jobs.

Low cost solar panels provide benefits to individuals who can lower their utility bills and those savings can help boost the overall economy so the effect to the U.S. manufacturing market seems negligible and the impact of cheaper panels, from whatever source seems substantial. In recent polls, U.S. citizens broadly support the adoption of solar, particularly if it is cheaper than conventionally produced electricity. Following a 90% drop in the cost of making a solar panel, the cost of solar is below retail electricity prices in the vast majority of the U.S.

The big picture objective here is to have cheap, abundant and clean power generations, which provides a foundation for robust economic activity and job growth. This tariff, sold to our legislators as a bill that preserves jobs, but in actuality it will actually cost jobs and interfere with the transition to a cheaper and cleaner energy platform for the U.S.

Bob Haughton Bob is responsible for multiple disciplines relating to overall company growth but focuses on leading the large scale national distributor accounts marketing effort as well as leveraging installation/distribution marketing and procurement of large scale projects nationwide. Prior to Ontility, Bob was President of Renewable Energy Resource Associates as well as Regional General Manager over the South Texas/State of Louisiana region for Standard Renewable Energy/Gridpoint. Bob received a BA in Architecture from the University of Houston and is a State of Texas and Nationally certified Registered Building Designer.

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