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Solar tariff is delaying Billions in Projects and Killing jobs: Sens. Heinrich, Heller(D) seek Repeal

posted Jun 22, 2018, 5:55 AM by Rahni Jere Sumler   [ updated Jun 22, 2018, 6:44 AM ]
Reposted from "Meteor Blades"Daily Kos Staff at Daily Kos. 

Bipartisanship in any matter of importance is rare these days in Washington. But there’s an occasional example to show it’s not wholly impossible. With a focus on jobs, Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Dean Heller of Nevada have joined forces in introducing a bipartisan bill to repeal the 30 percent tariff on imported solar cells that  Pr*sident Donald Trump imposed in January.  

Array of 366 solar tracking devices in South Burlington, Vermont

 South Burlington, Vermont Field Of 366 Solar Tracking Units SOUTH BURLINGTON, VERMONT - OCTOBER 31: An array of 366 solar tracking devices stand in a field October 31, 2014 in South Burlington, Vermont. Claire Solar Partners, LLC company, a Vermont company, installed the 2.2 megawatt tracker solar farm on a 30-acre parcel of agricultural land that went on-line in September, 2014. The Chinese-made panels and Vermont-made solar units will produce enough electricity to power approximately 400 residential homes. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
An array of 366 solar tracking devices stand in a field October 31, 2014 in South Burlington, Vermont. Claire Solar Partners, LLC company, a Vermont company, installed the 2.2 megawatt tracker solar farm on a 30-acre parcel of agricultural land that went on-line in September, 2014. The Chinese-made panels and Vermont-made solar units will produce enough electricity to power approximately 400 residential homes.
The bill—Protecting American Solar Jobs Act—is a match for H.R. 5571 introduced in the House in April by Rep. Jacky Rosen, (D-Nev.), along with Reps. Jared Huffman, (D-Calif.), Mark Sanford, (R-S.C.), Ralph Norman, (R-S.C.), and Steve Knight, (R-Calif.). The legislation would not only repeal the tariff but also reimburse those who have already paid the duty.
Truth be told, the chances of this legislation passing is about zilch despite objections to the tariff coming from both sides of the aisle. In early May, for instance, eight Republican senators from states with already strong or emerging solar markets, Heller among them, sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative and other federal agencies seeking an exemption from the tariff for “utility-scale” 72-cell, 1500-volt solar modules.

The tariff, reports Nichola Groom at Reuters, is already having a big impact on utility-scale projects:

President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported solar panels has led U.S. renewable energy companies to cancel or freeze investments of more than $2.5 billion in large installation projects, along with thousands of jobs, the developers told Reuters.
That’s more than double the about $1 billion in new spending plans announced by firms building or expanding U.S. solar panel factories to take advantage of the tax on imports.



Last year, $40.5 billion in utility-scale, industrial, and residential solar projects of all sizes were completed in the United States. That’s one-third as much as China invested in solar. As of the end of 2017, there were some 250,000 people employed in the U.S. solar industry. That workforce has grown by 168 percent in the past seven years. Betsy Lillian took note:

“The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift,” says Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy; they deliver more jobs, better-quality jobs and better-paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”

There’ll be fewer of those benefits this year in the United States. Among the projects Groom says the tariff is delaying and potentially killing permanently:
  • Cypress Creek Renewables LLC is freezing or canceling $1.5 billion in projects, 20 percent of its total, mostly in the Carolinas, Texas, and Colorado. That covers some 150 projects that could have employed 3,000 people.
  • Southern Current is delaying or ending $1 billion in solar projects, mainly in South Carolina
  • McCarthy Building Companies was planning to put 1,200 people to work on solar projects in 2018, but the tariff has spurred it to reduce that by half.
  • Pine Gate will only finish half of the 400 megawatts of solar installations it had projected and has decided not to hire 30 employees it previously was planning to add.
Some few companies have been helped by the tariff and are moving ahead with previously planned projects. For example, SunPower Corp bought SolarWorld’s Oregon factory, saving 280 jobs in the process. It also plans to hire additional employees for the Oregon operation. But, Groom reports, Sunpower will lay off 250 people in other parts of the company because of the tariffs.

In the short term, the idea that the tariff is a good way to boost solar power is harmful nonsense, just as critics noted when it was announced. As for the long-term, we’ll have to wait and see.
If the Trump regime were truly intent on giving renewables the added momentum needed to quickly wean us off fossil fuels, there are plenty of means available. But, of course, keeping coal, oil, and natural gas in the ground isn’t part of the White House agenda. Quite the contrary.
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