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ITC tariff recommendations could threaten solar while jobs increasing in 44 states

November 02, 2017
By: Ellen Marrison

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) this week recommended imposing tariffs on U.S. imports of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells (CSPV) after finding last month the imports were causing serious injury to the domestic production of the cells. Tuesday’s action was the latest in a closely watched case that many, including solar’s trade group — the Solar Energy Industries Association — are saying could impede the growth of the solar industry in this country. While the ITC can make the recommendations, it is now up to the president to pursue them — or not — and to determine the type and amount of relief. The finding comes at a time when the Solar Foundation reports there are more than 260,000 people employed in the solar industry in the U.S (the entire solar manufacturing spectrum comprises less than 15 percent of those jobs).

Many have said that restrictions on the imports of the panels would harm the industry as a whole as the cheaper solar imported products have helped grow their businesses and increased the use of solar energy throughout the country. In fact, photovoltaic panel installers are projected to be the fastest growing jobs (increasing 105.3 percent) in the U.S. in the coming decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The solar industry has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2016 found that solar employment increased by 25 percent over 2015 with 44 states seeing increases in 2016, and that employment has nearly tripled since the foundation’s first census in 2010. In 2016, the five states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida. The table below with numbers from the census shows the solar jobs per capita for each state, and more data on the number of jobs in each state can be found in the Solar Foundation’s chart, here.

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Two domestic solar panel manufacturers pursued relief from foreign imports by filing a petition with the ITC under Section 201 of the Trade Act. In the petition, Suniva, Inc. and SolarWorld Americas, Inc., sought tariffs and quotas on imported solar PV cells and modules, and in September the ITC found that there had been injury to the domestic market. The recommendations arising from the remedy phase were less than the tariffs sought by the petitioners, and varied among the four ITC commissioners. In a statement regarding the recommendations, Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA said: “The commissioners clearly took a thoughtful approach to their recommendations and it’s worth noting that in no case did a commissioner recommend anything close to what the petitioners asked for. That being said, proposed tariffs would be intensely harmful to our industry.”

The ITC will forward its report by November 13 to the president who will make the final decision on what type of action to pursue.

energy, employment