Executive Briefings

A Trade Fight With Asia Could Sabotage the U.S. Solar Industry

President Trump's most useful ally in his push to restore the dominance of coal, oil and gas in America could ultimately turn out to be a pair of bankrupt solar firms seeking help from the federal government getting back on their feet.

A Trade Fight With Asia Could Sabotage the U.S. Solar Industry

In an unorthodox trade case roiling the solar industry worldwide, the duo of distressed panel makers is aiming to empower Trump with the authority to slap punishing tariffs on foreign competitors - mostly in China and other Asian countries - whose cheap panels have fueled the massive growth in U.S. solar installations.

The fallout from the case that was heard last week by the U.S. International Trade Commission threatens to destabilize the massive network of installers and other nonmanufacturing businesses that make up the bulk of the American solar industry. Nearly 90 percent of the panels it uses are produced abroad.

Prices of panels would roughly double should the two U.S. manufacturers get the relief they are seeking, several independent analysts warn. Some 88,000 installation and other jobs in the U.S. solar electricity sector — one in every three — would vanish, according to the Solar Energy Industries Assn. California, with its robust solar industry, would lose the most by far.

The consequences for green power in the U.S. would be so serious that even conservative think tanks that have been tangling with the solar industry for years are speaking up on its behalf, warning Trump against imposing the sanctions. They are joined by big electricity companies that have had their own misgivings about the expansion of solar, as well as some of the nation’s biggest retailers and dozens of members of Congress.

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In an unorthodox trade case roiling the solar industry worldwide, the duo of distressed panel makers is aiming to empower Trump with the authority to slap punishing tariffs on foreign competitors - mostly in China and other Asian countries - whose cheap panels have fueled the massive growth in U.S. solar installations.

The fallout from the case that was heard last week by the U.S. International Trade Commission threatens to destabilize the massive network of installers and other nonmanufacturing businesses that make up the bulk of the American solar industry. Nearly 90 percent of the panels it uses are produced abroad.

Prices of panels would roughly double should the two U.S. manufacturers get the relief they are seeking, several independent analysts warn. Some 88,000 installation and other jobs in the U.S. solar electricity sector — one in every three — would vanish, according to the Solar Energy Industries Assn. California, with its robust solar industry, would lose the most by far.

The consequences for green power in the U.S. would be so serious that even conservative think tanks that have been tangling with the solar industry for years are speaking up on its behalf, warning Trump against imposing the sanctions. They are joined by big electricity companies that have had their own misgivings about the expansion of solar, as well as some of the nation’s biggest retailers and dozens of members of Congress.

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A Trade Fight With Asia Could Sabotage the U.S. Solar Industry