Solar Industry in California, U.S. Could Suffer Job Losses Under Possible Trump Administration Tariffs

In Kern County, solar panels covering almost 2 square miles form the Beacon Solar Project, owned by LADWP. (Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

In Kern County, solar panels covering almost 2 square miles form the Beacon Solar Project, owned by LADWP. (Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. trade officials on Friday empowered President Trump to impose tariffs that could cut off the solar energy industry from the cheap foreign-made panels that have driven its explosive growth.

The tariffs under consideration are meant to protect a small number of American solar-panel manufacturers reeling in the face of cheap imports. The U.S. International Trade Commission voted to enable Trump to impose them at the behest of two distressed firms that warned the American panel manufacturing industry is in a state of collapse.

But most of the rest of the solar industry fiercely opposes the levies, which independent analysts warn would drive up consumer prices and cause the number of annual solar installations in the U.S. to plunge. Only a fraction of American solar companies make the panels. Most rely on imports to keep prices competitive with other forms of electricity. More than 90% of solar installations in the U.S. use imported panels.

The governors of Nevada, Colorado, Massachusetts and North Carolina had implored the trade commission not to authorize tariffs in a last-ditch lobbying effort Thursday. Their letter warned of a “devastating blow on our states’ solar industries” and “unprecedented job loss, at steep cost to our states’ economies.” In California, which would get hit with more job losses than any state, the governor’s office has also been closely watching the situation.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.