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As many as 60,000 American solar industry jobs would be lost over the next three years should a 100% tariff be imposed on Chinese silicon PV imports, according to the results of a Brattle Group study commissioned by CASE, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy.

Clean Power

US Stands to Lose up to 60,000 Solar Industry Jobs Should Tariffs on Chinese Silicon PV Imports Be Imposed, CASE-Brattle Group Study Says

As many as 60,000 American solar industry jobs would be lost over the next three years should a 100% tariff be imposed on Chinese silicon PV imports, according to the results of a Brattle Group study commissioned by CASE, the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy.

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Launching its latest salvo against the Coalition of American Solar Manufacturing’s (CASM) anti-dumping and countervailing duty petitions with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and Commerce Dept., the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) released the results of a study by the Brattle Group that it commissioned.

A 100% tariff imposed on imports of silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, modules, and panels from China would result in the loss of as many as 50,000 net jobs in the US over the next three years, according to a press release announcing the results of the study. Moreover, retaliatory tariffs by China on its imports of US polysilicon would result in the loss of another 11,000 jobs in the first year following their imposition.

High and Low Scenario Analysis Estimates

Brattle Group analysts calculated high and low estimates of the effect on US solar industry jobs through 2014 based on the imposition of 50% and 100% tariff scenarios. In its unfair trade case, CASM is actually asking for the imposition of tariffs as high as 250% retroactive to around mid-November, CASE points out.

Imposition of a 100% tariff would result in consumer market losses ranging between $698 million and $2.62 billion. That translates into the loss of anywhere from 16,917 to 49,589 American jobs, according to Brattle’s analysis. A 50% tariff would result in consumer market losses from $621 million to $2.29 billion, which would result in the loss of between 14,877 and 43,178 solar industry jobs. The analysis factors in potential gains in domestic silicon PV cell or module manufacturing, CASE notes.

“This analysis makes it clear that imposing even a 50% tariff, much less than SolarWorld has requested, would be devastating for American workers,” said Jigar Shah, President of CASE. “We cannot allow one company’s anti-China crusade to threaten the U.S. solar industry and tens of thousands of American jobs.”

Elaborating on Brattle Group’s analysis, report author Dr. Mark Berkman stated, “While the U.S. solar industry has many facets and is quite complex, we were able to model the industry by utilizing straightforward economic analytical methods.

“We started by projecting the reduced demand for solar systems resulting from price increases due to tariffs. We then analyzed projected job gains and losses under two scenarios, each using a 50% and 100% tariff on imported solar cells and modules. Even under the most conservative assumptions, we did not find a scenario where imposing a tariff would create more jobs than it eliminates.”

Report Details; Fear Factor

The results of a scenario where no tariffs were imposed, Brattle Group found that aggregate demand for solar PV systems would increase from 1,678 MW in 2011 to 4,894 MW by 2014. A 50% tariff would raise industry-wide prices and delay growth, with total demand falling as low as 3,350 MW, a drop of over 31%. Aggregate demand would fall as low as 3,159 MW if a 100% tariff were to be imposed, a drop of more than 35%, according to the Brattle Group.

The study also included the “fear factor” of retaliatory action by the Chinese government, specifically on imports of polysilicon from US manufacturers, an action that Chinese producers have raised with China’s international trade authorities. “The U.S. is a major supplier of this component of photovoltaic modules, and removing Chinese demand for U.S.‐manufactured polysilicon is expected to result in around 10,881 U.S. job losses in the first year after tariffs are imposed,” according to a CASE press release.

“This is an eye-opening analysis,” said CASE’s Shah. “Even after accounting for job gains in solar cell manufacturing, the likely job losses in the rest of America’s solar industry and economy are staggering.”

The study did not take into account the potential damper on demand and US clean energy policy the tariff imports could have as a result of an increase in silicon solar PV costs, CASE noted. “Cost is the single most important factor in the ability to grow U.S. solar markets. Most U.S. incentive programs are predicated on a declining cost-curve.  In these political and economic times, getting to scale will depend on parity with alternatives,” said Adam Browning, executive director of the Vote Solar Initiative, a non-profit public advocacy organization that works to build state solar markets.

A full copy of the Brattle Group’s report, entitled, “The Employment Impacts of Proposed Tariffs on Chinese Manufactured Photovoltaic Cells and Modules,” is available via the link above.

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