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Chinese Solar Imports Face Increasing Tariffs

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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the government will be increasing the tariffs on solar panels imported from China. All Chinese solar imports will now face tariffs of up to 4.73 percent, depending on the specific panel manufacturer. All but two Chinese solar manufacturers will face a 3.59% tariff. Trina Solar and Suntech will have slightly different tariffs of 4.73% and 2.9%, respectively. (Note that these values are preliminary and could be revised before they come into effect later this year)

These tariffs were developed in response to concerns regarding Chinese solar manufacturer trade practices - specifically, the fact that Chinese solar manufacturers appear to have been dumping illegally subsidized PV panels into U.S. markets. As a result, U.S. solar companies - like the now infamous Solyndra - were unable to take a piece of the domestic market. (read more here). Last year, Chinese solar panels represented more than 50% (or about $2 billion) of the U.S. solar market while domestic manufacturers made up about one-third of overall sales.

While there is seemingly widespread support of these tariffs among U.S. solar manufacturers, there are also many critics. Generally, these critics believe that the tariffs will be bad for growth in U.S. solar generation capacity. Some have argued that low prices for solar, regardless of the source, should be encouraged and capitalized upon (in the form of increasing total installed solar capacity). And so, any cheap capacity should be welcomed into U.S. markets - if the Chinese government wants to subsidize a product that the U.S. wants to buy, that's just fine. Other critics believe that the maximum 4.73% tariff will not be enough to achieve the stated goal of increasing U.S. domestic manufacturing market share. Therefore, it will only hurt the U.S. by decreasing the total amount of new solar PV capacity being installed.

But, good or bad, it appears that import tariffs on Chinese solar are on the rise.

Photo Credit:

1. Photo of solar panel by Andreas Demmelbauer and used under this Creative Commons License.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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