Latest cloud for U.S. solar industry

President Joe Biden’s clean-energy agenda is dealing with yet another headache — an investigation by his own Commerce Department that found rampant cheating in solar imports from Asia.

The probe, which much of the industry has been dreading for months, found that four Chinese solar manufacturers are dodging U.S. tariffs by using factories in Southeast Asia to assemble their products.

Today’s draft finding could lead to new wide-ranging tariffs on solar panels and cells imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, David Iaconangelo writes for POLITICO’s E&E News.

That, in turn, might jack up costs for U.S. solar companies that use components from those countries — just as the industry has been hoping to reap the benefits from incentives in Biden’s new climate law.

The four Southeastern Asian countries named in the probe supply about 80 percent of imported U.S. solar modules, POLITICO’s Kelsey Tamborrino writes. While the new climate law aims to spur a resurgence in U.S. solar manufacturing, industry groups warn that that won’t happen soon enough to blunt the havoc caused by jacked-up tariffs.

Commerce’s finding “will strand billions of dollars worth of American clean energy investments and result in the significant loss of good-paying, American, clean energy jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a statement today. The department is expected to issue a final ruling in May.

An industry divided

A complaint from California-based solar panel maker Auxin Solar instigated the probe in February. But many U.S. solar installers and developers have castigated the Commerce investigation, calling it a threat to Biden’s overarching goal of weaning the U.S. power sector off fossil fuels.

Biden sought to get ahead of the ruling in June by imposing a two-year stay for any tariffs that may come from the investigation. Biden also invoked the Defense Production Act to help ramp up domestic solar production. But Ross Hopper said the two-year window will not be enough to prop up America’s solar supply chain.

One bright spot for the probe’s critics: Commerce declined to propose blanket bans on imports from the four countries in question.

It’s Friday — Thank you for tuning into POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host today, Lamar Johnson. Arianna will be back soon! Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]

Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: Josh Siegel and Catherine Morehouse discuss whether FERC commissioner Richard Glick is on his way out at the agency.

‘Zombie’ viruses thawing 

As the permafrost thaws in the Arctic, the world may get a taste of unknown viruses long lost to the world. Thirteen pathogens have been found in Russia’s Siberia in thawing permafrost, The Washington Post reports.

Scientists estimate the viruses were frozen more than 48,000 years ago.

The viruses raise an issue that scientists fear will come with climate change, “zombie viruses.”

Damage estimate
EPA surprised observers last month when it came out with an estimate for the cost of damage caused by climate change.

Jean Chemnick dives into how the agency beat the White House in providing an estimate.

All aboard (to avert a strike)

A railroad strike that would have decimated the nation’s economy was averted Friday, as Biden signed a bill enshrining the tentative agreement reached between the labor unions and the freight rail industry, Nick Niedzwiadek writes.

The bill passed the Senate 80-15 on Thursday, without a provision that would have added up to seven days of paid sick leave for workers.

New cap: The EU reached an agreement on a $60 per barrel cap on Russian oil.

Spare parts, anyone: Ukraine is searching across the world for parts to rebuild its systems following Russia’s bombardment on its electricity capabilities.

Nord Stream: Germany may have used a “shadowy” part of its government to help Russia complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

The Department of Interior delayed a review of an Arctic oil program until the spring. The program was approved by President Donald Trump.

A new federal program would give Native American tribes $75 million for climate-related relocation.

EPA moved to block the completion of Pebble Mine to protect Alaskan salmon. The Alaskan mining project would mine for copper and gold.

That’s it for today. Have a great weekend!


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