Federal officials consider tariffs on imported solar panels

Federal officials consider tariffs on imported solar panels
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Federal officials have launched an investigation into whether the government should impose tariffs on certain imported solar panel technology.

The investigation, announced Tuesday by the International Trade Commission (ITC), responds to a petition filed last month by bankrupt solar manufacturer Suniva Inc.

The company accused China and other Asian nations of “flooding” the United States with solar cells and modules and called for emergency tariffs and price floors for four years, the maximum allowable time.

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The ITC said that it would formally investigate and consider whether to recommend that President Trump impose such trade “safeguards.”

The petition sparked controversy when it was filed in April and does not enjoy the support of the solar power industry as a whole.

“While this action is not undertaken lightly, the fact is the American [crystalline silicon photovoltaic] cells and modules industry is disintegrating,” Suniva wrote in its petition, filed days after it filed for bankruptcy protection.

“This industry simply cannot survive in a market where foreign CSPV cell and module imports into the United States have unexpectedly exploded and prices have collapsed.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents solar manufacturers as well as installers, operators and others in the industry, slammed the action and said it could raise prices significantly.

“The International Trade Commission’s decision to consider Suniva’s petition for a lifeline could be bad news for hundreds of thousands of American workers in the solar industry and may jeopardize billions of dollars in investment in communities across the country,” Abigail Ross Hopper, the group’s president, said in a statement.

“Setting high price floors and exorbitant tariffs is a blunt instrument that would cripple one of the brightest spots in America’s economy,” she said.

The ITC will take comments through August and hold a public hearing on the matter. It plans to make a determination as to whether Suniva has been injured by late September and make its recommendation to Trump after that.