Analysis: Trump solar tariffs cost 62K US jobs

Tariffs on solar panels implemented under President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE have significantly harmed the U.S. solar industry, according to a new analysis released Tuesday.

More than 62,000 jobs and nearly $19 billion in new private sector investment has been lost due to the 2018 tariffs Trump placed on solar imports, according to the study by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). The number of jobs lost is nearly double the toll the SEIA first estimated when Trump announced the tariffs.

The $28 billion U.S. solar industry has been significantly affected by the tariffs. The industry gets 80 percent of its solar panel products from imports, largely from China. The nearly 25 percent tariff applies to all imported solar photovoltaic cells and modules, the main technology on panels that convert solar energy into electricity. 

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While the action was targeted at China, Trump’s tariffs apply to all imports, since Chinese manufacturers have also moved operations to other countries.

U.S. companies have warned that the high tax on importing the necessary solar materials will lead the industry to move fully oversees, hurting American business even more.

“Solar was the first industry to be hit with this administration’s tariff policy, and now we’re feeling the impacts that we warned against two years ago,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the SEIA, in a statement. “This stark data should be the predicate for removing harmful tariffs and allowing solar to fairly compete and continue creating jobs for Americans.” 

Some solar companies had at first hoped for exemptions to the rule. The Trump administration in June announced it was granting an exemption to bifacial solar panels, specialty panels that absorb sunlight on both sides, but months later revoked the waiver.

The new findings come the same week that the U.S. International Trade Commission is conducting its midterm review process for the tariffs. The Thursday review follows a complaint from solar company Suniva and will look at the effects of the tariffs on the industry from January 2017 to the end of the planned tariff lifecycle in 2021. 

The group additionally estimated that the tariffs cost the U.S. more than $10.5 million per day in unrealized economic activity. From a climate perspective, the SEIA also estimated that reduced solar panel deployment activity in the U.S., stemming from the tariffs, would increase emissions equivalent to 5.5 million cars.

The SEIA estimated that the tariffs are largely hurting solar companies located in the nascent markets of Alabama, Nebraska, Kansas and the Dakotas.