The solar industry has sounded the alarm that a Commerce Department investigation into whether China is skirting U.S. tariffs on components used to produce solar panels by funneling the parts through other countries could seriously jeopardize clean energy projects across the nation.
A whopping 80% of imported solar panels are made in four Southeast Asia countries — Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam — according to the American Clean Power Association. The Biden administration believes China could be avoiding trade laws by providing those nearby countries with components that should otherwise be subject to tariffs.
President Biden extended Trump-era tariffs on solar equipment earlier this year but allowed two exemptions for panels used in large utility-scale projects.
The investigation means that at least 318 solar projects were already on hold as of late last month, according to a survey of businesses by the Solar Energy Industries Association. The probe could last until at least late August when the Commerce Department is expected to issue a preliminary finding.
The inquiry could “jeopardize tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs, raise energy prices for consumers and also undermine the administration’s clean energy [and] climate goals,” Sen. Jacky Rosen, Nevada Democrat, told Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during a hearing last month.
Still, Ms. Raimondo indicated they have no intention to fast-track the probe. She will again go before a congressional panel Wednesday and is expected to be grilled on the matter by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The investigation was launched in early April based on trade violation allegations from a small California solar manufacturer, Auxin Solar.