The U.S. Commerce Department has rejected a request by a group of companies to impose tariffs on solar panels imported from Southeast Asia.
U.S. solar farm developers' dependence on cheap imported panels has burst into the spotlight amid supply chain disruptions and the continued tensions between Washington and Beijing. However, the sector has been vocal against the imposition of tariffs that would reduce their dependence on imports but expose them to the higher prices of locally produced panels.
The group of solar farm developers that asked for the tariffs—American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention—diverged from the industry line with the argument that panels imported from Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand were actually Chinese panels as Chinese manufacturers moved their production lines to these three countries to skirt U.S. tariffs on China-made panels introduced by the Trump administration.
The majority opinion, however, is that if tariffs are imposed on imported panels, the U.S. solar industry will suffer a severe blow. According to industry body Solar Energy Industries Association, if tariffs are imposed on imported panels, this would compromise the commercial viability of some 18 GW of new solar projects over the next two years.
Interestingly enough, it was not on industry-related grounds that the Commerce Department decided to reject the group's request. According to a Reuters report, the motive for the rejection was the American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention's unwillingness to identify its members, which, the department said, prevented it from evaluating the request adequately.
The group has said it fears the Chinese solar industry's reaction if it reveals the identities of its members.
The Solar Energy Industries Association said that the Commerce Department's decision on the tariff issue "provides a rush of certainty for companies to keep their investments moving, hire more workers and deploy more clean energy."
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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