Coalition launches to fight solar panel tariffs

Coalition launches to fight solar panel tariffs
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A broad industry and conservative coalition launched Friday to fight potential tariffs on imported solar panels.

Energy Trade Action Coalition includes mainly non-solar companies, along with trade associations, utilities, retailers, unions, conservative groups and others.

It was formed with the express purpose of fighting a petition by bankrupt domestic solar manufacturer Suniva Inc., which is asking the Trump administration to impose penalties on imported solar technology like cells and panels.

SolarWorld, another company manufacturing panels domestically, has signed on to support the request.

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“Tariffs meant to protect one industry can, and often do, have significant damaging effects on other domestic industries,” Tori Whiting, research associate at the Heritage Foundation, said in a statement announcing the new coalition.

“Imposing tariffs under Section 201, as Suniva and SolarWorld request, would be a step backward by adding another layer of federal subsidies which is something the Heritage Foundation opposes in all instances,” she said.

“Protectionism is never the solution for an inability to compete globally,” said Bill Gaskin, former president of the Precision Metalforming Association. “Our country’s trade laws should never be co-opted into causing widespread pain for the broader U.S. economy.”

The coalition is planning to make its case to the Trump administration, Congress, the public, the media and other stakeholders that penalties for importing solar panels would be harmful to the economy as a whole.

The solar companies want either price floors or tariffs on imported technology.

The International Trade Commission has taken up their case. That group is due to decide later this year whether domestic companies have been injured by the imports.

If the ITC finds in the affirmative, President Trump would then have wide-ranging authority to impose penalties.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents all facets of the solar industry, opposes the petition. It said 88,000 jobs are at risk in fields like installation, producing other parts and technology.