President Biden expands solar tariffs, with important caveats.


The solar tariff announcement came as the House of Representatives voted Friday morning to approve a bill that would spend nearly $300 billion on scientific research, including $600 million in grants and loans for solar manufacturing. . The Biden administration has also proposed substantial tax credits and other measures to boost the solar industry as part of its Build Back Better Act, but that legislation remains mired in Congress.

Solar tariffs were first imposed in February 2018, President Donald J. Trump following a recommendation from the International Trade Commission, an independent group that reviews trade cases. Tariffs started at 30% and were to drop by 5 percentage points each year over a four-year period.

Those rates would have expired this month. But several manufacturers, including Auxin Solar, Suniva, Hanwha, LG and Mission Solar Energy, have called for the levies to be extended, arguing they are still needed.

In its Friday announcement, the Biden administration doubled the amount of cells that can be imported into the United States duty-free to five gigawatts, saying the change would give domestic manufacturers who use the cells to make solar panels the supplies that they need. competitive.

But some critics said the change, along with the exclusion of bifacial panels, would eliminate domestic industry protections. In a note to clients on Tuesday, Julien Dumoulin-Smith, research analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said rates with those exclusions “would be largely toothless.”

A senior administration official pushed back against those claims on Friday, saying the decision would help create jobs, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign suppliers and achieve ambitious clean energy goals.

The White House had consulted with all sectors of the solar industry, and they all agreed that tariffs alone would not bring back solar cell production or increase module production to a point where they could meet the needs of the United States, the Biden official said.

Ana Swanson reported from Washington and Ivan Penn from Los Angeles. Lisa Friedman contributed reporting from Washington.

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