Solar panels aren’t as environmentally friendly as you may think. And now an industry group is saying looming tariffs will cripple the industry.
The bulk of solar panels are imported into the U.S., making them cheaper but not necessarily green.
The problem is how the panels are made.
“Most of [the panels] are produced with energy from carbon-dioxide-belching, coal-burning plants in China,” a Wall Street Journal report said in July.
“Solar panels in China are made using Chinese electricity, which is associated with high emissions of CO2,” Robbie Andrew, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, Norway, told FOX Business.
But now a group is claiming China-made panels are coming via countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand in order to skirt tariffs.
In August, the American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention (A-SMACC) asked the Commerce Department to investigate “unfairly traded” imports from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam of solar cells and modules that are “unlawfully circumventing antidumping and countervailing duties on China.”
“While Chinese companies now almost exclusively export to the United States from Southeast Asia, the vast majority of manufacturing, research and development, and capital investment remain in China,” according to the A-SMACC.
“I am not sure if Malaysia and Vietnam have that much production capacity, so some might be ‘rerouted’ from other countries due to the duties and bans,” Fengqi You, a professor at Cornell’s Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, told FOX Business.
Imports from Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand account for 80% of all panel imports into the U.S., according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), as reported by Reuters.
The Commerce Department is expected to decide soon whether to launch a trade investigation into solar cells and modules from those countries.
This has triggered a response from the SEIA, claiming that tariffs would cripple the industry.
“We are writing to emphasize the immediate and serious threat posed to the U.S. solar industry from the anonymous circumvention petitions recently filed against solar cell and panel imports from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam,” the SEIA said in a September letter to U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo.
“The massive duties called for in these petitions, ranging from 50% to as high as 250%, are already having an adverse impact on the U.S. solar industry and, if implemented, would devastate the industry and each of our individual companies,” the letter said.
All the fuss is happening because of a booming solar panel installation market in the U.S.
In the last decade, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 42%, according to the SEIA.
“Thanks to strong federal policies like the solar Investment Tax Credit, rapidly declining costs, and increasing demand across the private and public sector for clean electricity, there are now more than 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed nationwide, enough to power 18.9 million homes,” the SEIA said.