A tariff investigation by the Commerce Department has stalled the expansion of the United States solar industry. This was a look into whether or not Chinese solar manufacturers were improperly funneling parts through other Asian countries.
Determined to meet its clean energy and climate goals, however, the Biden Administration has put forth a compromise.
Justice, commerce, and meeting climate goals
The investigation will continue while Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam will be able to export solar panels to the US for two years without fear of reprisals. This gives the American solar industry some reassurance over the future of US solar expansion while they await the verdict of the investigation.
A White House official defended the move saying “And here [the President] is using that authority to ensure the reliable supply of solar components from Southeast Asian countries. … that play a key role in the reliable supply of solar [panels].” According to the official, the Tariff Act empowers the President and the Commerce Secretary to take emergency action.
“The president’s action is a much-needed reprieve from this industry-crushing probe,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, the president, and chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Industries Association. The solar industry is applauding the President’s decision, while last month Hopper expressed concerns that the investigation was “wiping out a decade of solar job growth.”
The President is trying to drastically scale up solar production. While the industry has been growing exponentially over the last decade, it is not on track to meet the country’s climate goals.
To accelerate US solar panel manufacturing, even more, the President is invoking the Defense Production Act. This was enacted during the Korean War to boost civil defense and mobilization efforts in times of crisis. While boosting solar, this is also meant to help other clean energy technology like building insulation, efficient heat pumps for buildings, equipment for fuel cells, and power grid infrastructure like transformers. The President is planning for the Federal Government to increase the amount of US-made solar panels and clean technology it buys.
At this rate, the administration predicts that the domestic manufacturing of solar panels will triple within the next two years, powering 3.3 million homes with solar each year.