The president just made a move toward increasing access to solar power. Here's why it matters.
Clean energy alternatives like solar power are critical to fighting climate change. However, if there’s one thing the climate movement has shown, it’s that people in charge often prioritize playing politics over anything else. But now, the Biden administration is waiving tariffs on solar panels after a federal probe threatened to stall the industry.
In May, the Department of Commerce began investigating a tariff request after Auxin Solar, a small California-based manufacturer, alleged that panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam were actually Chinese manufacturers trying to bypass U.S. tariffs. The investigation was no small thing given the four countries listed are responsible for about 80 percent of the U.S.’s solar panels.
With companies hesitant about having to pay retroactive tariffs, the investigation threatened to halt the solar industry’s growth. The Solar Energy Industries Association projected that imposing tariffs would cut total solar installations by 46% in 2022 and 2023. The move would also put over 100,000 jobs at risk. Rystad Energy, an energy research company, also stated two-thirds of planned capacity additions were in jeopardy.
On Monday, the Biden administration announced it’ll waive tariffs from the four Southeast Asian countries over the next two years. Its decision has brought a lot of relief to the solar industry.
“We applaud President Biden’s thoughtful approach to addressing the current crisis of the paralyzed solar supply chain,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of The Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. “Today’s actions protect existing solar jobs, will lead to increased employment in the solar industry and foster a robust solar manufacturing base here at home.”
Solar power has been growing in the U.S. for some time. Last year, a report by the Department of the Interior stated the U.S. was on pace to approve nearly 50 new wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects by the end of 2025. The projects would create enough electricity to power nearly 9.5 million homes. And while there are issues regarding the ethics of solar power, it’s clear that transitioning from fossil fuels is a key component of combatting climate change.
The Biden administration’s decision doesn’t mean the Commerce Department’s investigation is over. However, lawmakers have already cast doubts on Auxin’s allegations. During a May hearing, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) referred to them as “facially not true.”
Along with waiving tariffs, the Biden administration authorized the Defense Production Act to increase production of clean energy technology, including solar panel parts. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said, “With the new DPA authority, DOE can help strengthen domestic solar, heat pump and grid manufacturing industries while fortifying America’s economic security and creating good-paying jobs, and lowering utility costs along the way.”