As a solar company, we are devastated to learn Trump has imposed a 30% tariff on solar panels, virtually killing the solar industry. Solar employs more people than coal and oil combined. today’s decision will cause the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs this year.
In the last decade, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 68%. Nearly 260,000 Americans work in solar — more than double the number in 2012 — at more than 9,000 companies in every U.S. state.
The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% since 2010, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide.
In 2016, Solar installed 39% of all new electric generating capacity, topping all other technologies for the first time. Solar’s increasing competitiveness against other technologies has allowed it to quickly increase its share of total U.S. electrical generation.
The solar industry employs the kind of “forgotten” Americans whom Trump champions: small contractors who employ blue-collar workers earning a median of $26 an hour; one in 10 are veterans.
On one side are manufacturers SolarWorld, a U.S. subsidiary of a German company, and Georgia-based Suniva, majority-owned by a Hong Kong firm. Both complained to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) that cheap imports, mostly from China, were killing them.
They filed their ITC complaint under a seldom-used statute in which the criteria is nearly impossible to refute. Commissioners needed only to find that large numbers of an imported product were undercutting a U.S. manufacturer.
This industry is America’s fastest-growing energy business, expanding by 20% each of the past four years and now employing nearly 374,000 workers. Solar companies created 1 in 50 new jobs in the U.S. in 2016,
Analysts say will send the price of solar panels surging and halt hiring in an industry that has grown 17 times faster than the U.S. economy. It will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” Abigail Ross Hopper, Solar Energy Institute of America (SEIC)’s chief executive, said in a scathing press release.
tRrump has railed against renewable energy and dismissed climate change as a hoax, had significant discretion over today’s decision proving that he is not putting America first and ultimately will put thousands out of work.
Projected it will cost the industry 88,000 jobs nationwide, about 34 percent of the 260,000 Americans employed in solar in 2017, according to calculations released last June by SEIA. At risk would be 6,300 jobs in Texas, 4,700 in North Carolina “and a whopping 7,000 in SC.
Last year, Trump proposed a 2018 budget that slashed funding for the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 71.9 percent.
The administration pushed a proposal designed by coal baron and Trump ally Bob Murray to bail out coal and nuclear power plants with a plan that would add $10.8 billion in ratepayer costs.
The Environmental Protection Agency moved to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the nation’s only major federal program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and incentivize utility-scale clean energy investments.
The White House also illegally withheld $91 million in funding to ARPA-E, an experimental energy research program responsible for “holy grail” breakthroughs in battery storage technology.
As an #Solar industry veteran for over 25 years, I have contended that if they stripped the incentives from fossil fuel and renewables we would beat them on pricing and the flip to renewables would be swift. Republicans keep crowing about how we need to quit subsidizing and paying out to prop up industries but what they refuse to talk about is the number of incentives fossil fuel receives.
Energy analysts have made the point again and again that fossil fuels, not renewable energy, most benefit from supportive public policy.
The profits of US fossil fuels are built on a foundation of government assistance. US fossil fuel production is subsidized to the tune of $20 billion annually Researchers at Oil Change International (OCI) set out to quantify the level of US fossil fuel subsidies, OCI is only counting direct production subsidies. As they acknowledge, that leaves out a great deal.
OCI’s analysis leaves out indirect subsidies — things like the money the US military spends to protect oil shipping routes, or the unpaid costs of health and climate impacts from burning fossil fuels.
These indirect subsidies reach to the hundreds of billions, dwarfing direct subsidies — the IMF says that, globally speaking, they amount to $5.3 trillion a year. OCI acknowledges that its estimates of state-level subsidies are probably low, since many states don’t report the costs of tax expenditures (i.e., tax breaks and credits to industry), so data is difficult to come by. Adding everything up: $14.7 billion in federal subsidies and $5.8 billion in state-level incentives, for a total of $20.5 billion annually in corporate welfare. Of that total, 80 percent goes to oil and gas, 20 percent to coal. On the right, subsidies are broken down by stage of production. Extraction gets the most.
Notice that asterisk by remediation, which refers to the cost of cleaning up environmental messes and abandoned infrastructure left behind by fossil fuels. Shady insurance, bonding, and liability-cap policies mean that taxpayers are probably on the hook for lots more than this.
There are dozens and dozens of fossil fuel production subsidies — OCI’s report has a whole appendix devoted to listing them — but here they are broken down by the biggest offenders:
- Intangible drilling oil & gas deduction ($2.3 billion)
- Excess of percentage over cost depletion ($1.5 billion)
- Master Limited Partnerships tax exemption ($1.6 billion)
- Last-in, first-out (LIFO) accounting ($1.7 billion)
- Lost royalties from onshore and offshore drilling ($1.2 billion)
- Low-cost leasing of coal-production in the Powder River Basin ($963 million)
These kinds of obscure tax loopholes and accounting tricks are not widely known or debated, partially because you have to be a tax lawyer to understand them, and partially because they are simply old. The single biggest one, drilling deduction, has been around for over a century!
So let’s compare renewable subsidies to fossil and understand that DOE report says 187,117 workers are employed at coal, oil, and natural gas power plants compared to nearly 374,000 people in the solar industry and 102,000 in the wind industry.
The primary federal tax supports for renewable energy — the investment and production tax credits, respectively — are not permanent. They are set to phase out over the next five years, and are politically vulnerable in the meantime.
Permanent fossil tax breaks are $7.4 billion to $5.6 billion. In the 2015-2016 election cycle, oil, gas, and coal companies spent $354 million in campaign contributions and lobbying and received $29.4 billion in federal subsidies in total over those same years — an 8,200% ROI.
Almost half of the new oil fields getting drilled would have been left alone if not for subsidies. That is no small effect!
Trump is making a huge mistake. Our company, that does quite well, services farming areas where the majority are hardcore Republicans who invest in solar only because of its return on investment and ability to own their own financial destiny when it concerns energy. They have been blowing our phones up for the last four hours trying to get their systems purchased before the new tariff takes effect.
While #TrumpJobKiller has broad authority on the size, scope, and duration of duties, the dispute may shift to a different venue. He alone is responsible for the decision to slap a tariff tax of 30% on solar. China and neighbors including South Korea may opt to challenge the decision at the World Trade Organization — which has rebuffed prior U.S.-imposed tariffs that appeared before it. Lewis Leibowitz, a Washington-based trade lawyer, expects the matter will wind up with the WTO. “Nothing is very likely to stop the relief in its tracks,” he said before the decision. “It’s going to take a while.”
The solar industry will attempt a long-shot appeal to Congress but we need your help in getting the word out. Please call your representatives educate and educate them on how devastating this is for our economy.
Both sides of the aisle have very different views on how renewables are affecting the climate but no one wants to be associated with killing this many jobs or an entire industry that has this big of an impact on the economy. 1-10 solar employees are veterans including myself.
- 30% tariff this year, starting 7Feb
- 5% decrease in the tariff every year for 3 years.
- The tariff ends altogether on the start of the 5th year
- NAFTA agreement will not be honored (Mex and Can will be taxed)
Only WTO “developing countries” are exempt – there are currently no large scale PV manufacturing in any of them
Tariff is on Crystalline cells and any item where they are a component within (modules, inverters, etc.)