In a move that could upset the US political apple cart all over Washington, Nevada Congresswoman Jacky Rosen has introduced a bipartisan bill to the House of Congress which, if successful, could overturn the 30% tariff on imported solar cells and modules introduced by President Donald Trump earlier this year.
After 9 months of deliberation and political sniping, US President Donald Trump in January announced the imposition of a 30% tariff on all imported solar cells and modules in response to a Section 201 trade case which was filed by Suniva back in April of 2017. The move was immediately howled down by all and sundry as a protectionist measure which would do more harm than good.
Specifically, the US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) — which had been battling to prevent any tariffs since the beginning — immediately concluded that the tariff would result in the loss of roughly 23,000 American jobs in 2018 alone — after already losing 10,000 jobs in 2017. Initial figures from GTM Research predicted that the 30% tariff would see the US solar industry suffer an 11% decrease in installations over the next 5 years — or a reduction of around 7.6 gigawatts (GW). GTM Research followed this up with more in-depth analysis which confirmed the 11% reduction and showed that 2018 will suffer the most obvious brunt of the damage (see below).
The opposition to Trump’s decision was not quiet nor restricted to those directly invested in the solar industry, but last week’s announced legislation has come as a surprise which might upset an already upset President even further.
Congresswoman Jacky Rosen (NV-03) announced on Thursday last week new legislation called the Protecting American Solar Jobs Act (H.R. 5571) which was backed by a bipartisan collection of colleagues including Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA), Mark Sanford (R-SC), Ralph Norman (R-SC), and Steve Knight (R-CA). According to Rosen, the bill would repeal the Trump Administration’s “misguided decision” to impose a tariff on solar imports and, under the new legislation, duties and tariffs would be reset back to previous rates.
“Solar energy’s success throughout Nevada has led to new jobs, cheaper power bills, and the growth of a new industry that is diversifying our state’s economy,” said Rep. Jacky Rosen. “This Administration directly threatened the stability and financial well-being of our local solar industry when the President decided to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported panels. An attack on solar energy is an attack on the countless hardworking Nevadans who benefit from this growing industry, and my new bill will reverse this damaging decision.”
“President Trump’s reckless solar tariffs have threatened the booming solar industry growth that we’ve seen not only across California but across the country,” added Rep. Jared Huffman. “This clean energy industry is an American success story, and the President’s decision to slap 30% tariffs on all imported products, even components that are developed by innovative American companies, will harm our clean energy economy, costing tens of thousands of American jobs. I’m glad to work across the aisle on this legislation to repeal the President’s harmful solar tariffs.”
The bipartisan Protecting American Solar Jobs Act unsurprisingly also received strong endorsement from the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, Abigail Ross Hopper, who has been fighting the imposition of solar tariffs since they were first raised early last year.
“This bipartisan legislation is an important step in countering the harmful impact of tariffs on the solar industry,” Ross Hopper said. “Across the country, the rise of solar has generated thousands of new jobs and provided communities with clean, sustainable power. It is clear that solar is the energy of choice for Americans and we must do what we can to allow this economic engine to continue to advance here in the US.”
Of course, a bill introduced to Congress must first pass the House, then the Senate, before being approved by the President himself — the same person who enacted the tariffs in the first place. The Protecting American Solar Jobs Act was introduced into the House Committee on Ways and Means, which will then have to decide if it is to be released to the floor for a vote. If the bill passes a vote by a simple majority (218 of 435) then the bill will move on to the Senate and so on. If the President vetos the bill, it will then return to Senate and Congress where it will be voted on again and must pass by a two-thirds majority to override the President’s veto. Of course, the President can simply ignore the bill and, after 10 days, the bill becomes law anyway, but that seems unlikely in this instance.
This minor lesson in Constitutional law might be old news to many American readers, but for an Australian writer, and for any international readers, it sums up the weighty challenge ahead of this bill and its supporters. If other politicians feel as Congresswoman Rosen does, that jobs are at risk in their home state, then the politics of the matter might take a back seat to pleasing constituents. Otherwise, it seems unlikely — given the current state of the Congress and Senate — that this bill will get too much traction.