Biden waives solar panel tariffs, seeks to increase production

President Joe Biden ordered emergency action on Monday to increase US solar panel production and announced a two-year tariff exemption on panels from Southeast Asia as he seeks to kickstart industrial locks for the purpose of fighting climate change.

His requests for the Defense Production Act and other executive actions come amid complaints by industry groups that the solar sector is being slowed by supply chain issues due to the Commerce Department’s ongoing investigation into possible trade violations involving Chinese products.

The Commerce Department announced in March that it was researching imports of solar panels from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia, concerned that products from those countries were ignoring US anti-dumping rules that restrict imports from China.

Solar energy companies rose in Monday morning trade on Wall Street.

White House officials said Biden’s actions were aimed at increasing domestic production of solar panel parts, building installation materials, high-efficiency heat pumps and other components such as cells used to fuel clean energy. They cited the suspension of tariffs affecting imports from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cambodia as a link while other efforts boost domestic solar production—even as the administration remains supportive of US trade laws and the Commerce Department investigation.

The Commerce Department has defended its investigation. Secretary Gina Raimondo told a Senate panel in May that the solar investigation was following a process established by law that did not allow for consideration of climate change, supply chains or other factors.

However, clean energy leaders have warned since then that the investigation – which could result in retroactive tariffs of up to 240% – would severely hamper the US solar industry, leading to thousands of layoffs and jeopardizing up to 80% of planned solar projects around. country. That could jeopardize one of Biden’s main clean energy goals and run counter to his Democratic administration’s push for renewables like wind and solar.

“The president’s announcement will rejuvenate domestic solar construction and manufacturing by restoring predictability and business certainty that the Commerce Department’s defect investigation has been disrupted,” Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association and former Obama administration official, said in Monday’s statement.

Others hit the same note. Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industry Association, supports Biden’s “wise approach to addressing the current crisis of a crippled solar supply chain.”

“Today’s actions protect existing solar jobs, will lead to increased employment in the solar industry and drive a strong solar manufacturing base here at home,” Ross Hopper said in a statement.

But the move drew sharp criticism from major solar panel producer First Solar Inc., who said the tariff freeze provided “unrestricted access to China’s state-subsidized solar companies for the next two years” and that using the Defense Production Act was “unlawful use.” effective from taxpayer dollars and far from long-lasting solar industrial policies.”

“The government can’t stick Band-Aid on this issue and hope it goes away,” Samantha Sloan, vice president of corporate policy, said in a statement.

Using executive action comes as the Biden administration’s clean energy tax cuts, and other major proposals meant to boost domestic green energy production, have stalled in Congress.

The Defense Production Act allows the federal government to direct manufacturing production for national defense and has become a more common tool used by the president in recent months. President Donald Trump’s administration used it to manufacture medical equipment and supplies during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden raised his authority last month to prioritize increasing the national supply of infant formula amid a domestic shortage caused by the security-related shutdown of the country’s largest infant formula factory.

Jean Su, director of the Center for Biodiversity’s energy justice program, said in a statement that Biden’s announcement could “provide important momentum for the needed transition to solar energy.”

“We hope that the adoption of the Defense Production Act will be a turning point for the president, who must use all his executive powers to face the climate emergency head-on,” Su said.

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