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Developer: Tariffs a "Disaster" for Solar Industry

Tariffs on solar panels could cost the U.S. 88,000 jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. (Oregon Dept. of Transportation/Flickr)
Tariffs on solar panels could cost the U.S. 88,000 jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. (Oregon Dept. of Transportation/Flickr)
October 2, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon advocates for solar energy say the future won't be as bright if the Trump administration imposes tariffs on imported solar panels.

Last month, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that cheap, foreign-made solar panels are hurting domestic manufacturers, and will consider solutions at a hearing scheduled this week. Its options include a price floor and tariffs.

David Brown is co-founder of Obsidian Renewables, an Oregon-based company that develops solar projects in the Northwest. He doesn't mince words about what tariffs would mean for solar jobs in Oregon.

"It will cost lots of jobs – not forever, because it's so stupid, it'll get repealed,” he states. “But for as long as it's in effect, it'll be a disaster."

Solar jobs increased by 50 percent in Oregon from 2015 to 2016, according to the Solar Foundation, and nationwide, the industry employs more than 260,000 people.

But the Solar Energy Industries Association warns that imposing tariffs could cost the sector 88,000 jobs.

Brown says the International Trade Commission's decision has already caused chaos in the solar market.

He notes that installation jobs far outnumber manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and installation jobs are the ones that could be lost. He insists the United States won't win from tariffs, but other countries might.

"The ironic thing is that the Chinese panel manufacturers want this action to go into place, because they'll make a ton of money,” he states. “It's always called a 'tariff,' but it isn't. It's a minimum price."

Tariffs have critics on both sides of the aisle, including groups that normally align with President Donald Trump. The magazine Mother Jones has reported that The Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Goldman Sachs agree that tariffs would make U.S. solar less competitive and cost jobs.


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR