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The International Trade Commission has handed Trump just the tool he needs to crush the US solar power industry. Will he use it?

Clean Power

Will Trump Crush US Solar Power With New Tariffs? Industry Already Shaking

The International Trade Commission has handed Trump just the tool he needs to crush the US solar power industry. Will he use it?

Is Trump about to crush the US solar industry? He has a new tool to do exactly that if he chooses to use it. One of the joys of globalization is that some faceless, unelected bureaucrat in a galaxy far, far away can override the sovereignty of a nation in order to protect the profits of other anonymous people hiding out in corporate boardrooms around the world.

Globalization is all about profits over people and it has worked its nefarious magic brilliantly over the past 3 decades or so. Now it may have handed #FakePresident Trump the power to blow up the solar power revolution in America by placing burdensome new tariffs on imported solar cells. Will the blithering scumbag with the orange hair do that to protect his pals in the fossil fuel industry? In a New York minute, friends.

Here’s the backstory we laid out a few weeks ago. Last spring, Suniva — which makes solar panels in Georgia and Michigan — filed for bankruptcy. Nine days later, it filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission alleging that it could not compete with cheap solar cells imported from China. SolarWorld, another solar panel manufacturer located in Oregon, joined in the petition to the ITC.

American Corporations That Aren’t

Now, are you sitting down? Because it turns out Suniva is not an American corporation at all. It is owned by Shunfeng International Clean Energy which is based in Hong Kong. With the aid of Google Maps, one can quickly determine that Hong Kong is in China. SolarWorld is also not an American company. It is a division of a German manufacturer.

Suniva says it needs a tariff of at least 40 cents per solar cell in order to survive. It wants the minimum price of a solar panel to be 78 cents per watt. Suniva’s remedy proposal will double the price of solar, destroy two-thirds of demand, erode billions of dollars in investment, and unnecessarily force 88,000 Americans to lose their jobs in 2018. That’s the claim of Abigail Ross Hoppe, president CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a solar power advocacy group.

Hoppe’s pessimistic forecast appears to be coming true. Already, uncertainty about what The Trumpster might do has already sent a chill through the industry in America, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Some companies are thinking about switching from solar power to wind power. “Projects are on hold,” says Yumin Liu, president of Recurrent Energy, a division of Canadian Solar. “It’s uncertain. Many companies are in the same boat.”

“Solar developers anticipating to grow by signing contracts with corporations and utilities are currently in a standstill,” says Nathan Serota of BNEF. “Wind developers don’t have that problem.” Corporate sales of wind usually exceed solar power but the gap was beginning to narrow. Now it is reversing. There were 40% more wind energy than solar deals in 2016 but in 2017, new wind power contracts outnumber new solar contracts 3 to 1.

The Rest Of The Story

On September 29, the U.S. Energy Department, controlled by Rick Perry, a man who said while running for president he’d eliminate the department he’s now head of, proposed a rule that would boost nuclear and coal power. That rule would essentially use taxpayer dollars to subsidize coal and nuclear power producers. So much for government not picking winners and losers, eh?

“The market just got a one-two punch,” says Andrew Redinger, a managing director at KeyCorp, the holding company that owns Key Bank. “Even if neither happens, the uncertainty during the interim will lead to stoppage. People don’t like uncertainty.”

So, will Trump take a sledgehammer to the solar industry? To find an answer to that question, ask yourself this question: Do sharks swim in the ocean?

 
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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

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