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An America First Plan for Solar Energy

Making America First in Manufacturing, National Security & Solar Energy

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Saying No To Government Bailout will #SaveSolarJobs, Allow Rapid Economic Growth, Protect the U.S. Military

Click here to download a PDF of this Plan

President Trump is facing a stark choice in a solar trade case that pits two foreign-owned, bankrupt companies against America’s surging solar industry and its formidable American workforce. We are asking the President to put America First. To help him do that, we are proposing a six-step plan to add jobs, support innovation and create economic growth.

Under this America First solar plan, President Trump will be saying yes to jobs, economic growth, innovation and national security. If he sides with the two foreign-owned companies, Suniva and SolarWorld, he will kill tens of thousands of American jobs, weaken national security and raise electricity prices for everyday Americans and businesses.

The President should put America First above ill-conceived tariffs that amount to new taxes on solar energy. The 260,000-worker strong American solar industry, including its 38,000 employees in U.S. solar manufacturing are generating tens of billions of dollars in investment that benefits communities, counties and states across the nation, while strengthening our energy grid against natural and manmade disasters.

Two foreign-owned companies are exploiting U.S. trade law and are asking President Trump for a bailout in the form of tariffs and import ceilings. It’s a bad deal for America. They want the federal government to tip the market. They want to force utility companies and their customers to pay off hedge fund owners and foreign creditors that made bad investments. They have no real plan for creating a strong and far-reaching solar industry that includes manufacturing and strengthens the supply chain.

Fortunately, we do. Here is our recommendation for President Trump:

  • Step 1: Say No to Solar Tariffs - These taxes on industry will raise electricity prices, kill jobs and bring an American economic success story to a halt.
  • Step 2: Support our Military and National Security - Take a strong stand for the military by keeping the costs of solar down. Our fighting forces need solar in the battlefield and use solar on domestic bases today. Solar helps ensure mission success.
  • Step 3: Ensure U.S. Energy Dominance - Do not cede world leadership in solar power production. Listen to a broad but unified coalition of energy producers, conservative groups and American businesses large and small, which all see solar investment as giving them an edge.
  • Step 4: Fight for American Workers and Don’t Turn Off This Economic Engine - Today, solar is a force in America's economy. Keep the booming solar market going strong and offering well-paying jobs.
  • Step 5: Don’t Bail Out Failed Foreign Firms - You will be helping millionaires in China and Germany, and investors in Qatar and Europe, rather than the American families that have built this booming American industry. Don’t let two foreign-based, bankrupt companies manipulate U.S. law for a bailout.
  • Step 6: An America First Plan for Solar - If you believe those firms need assistance, create a plan that would support further investment in U.S. manufacturing, not just bail out foreign investors. Say no to traditional tariffs and quotas, and use American innovation - such as an import license fee that will get hundreds of millions of dollars in direct investment help to U.S. companies and our economy.
Step 1 — Say No to Solar Tariffs
Generals, Hannity, Heritage, Wall Street Journal Oppose Bailout

Tariffs are a bad idea, and that’s why there is almost universal opposition to a bailout.

Generals, conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), personalities as diverse as Sean Hannity, major retailers, small businesses, utilities, and others have joined together to urge President Trump to stand with American workers by opposing tariffs on solar parts.

As the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board said: “Solar tariffs would be another destructive exercise that benefits a handful of Suniva and SolarWorld investors at the expense of everyone else.”

“The proposed tariffs would roughly double the price of solar cell panels. While this might give short-lived protection to a handful of privileged solar manufacturers including Suniva and SolarWorld, it will doom the broader U.S. solar industry and their customers by removing inexpensive choices from the market,” Heritage Foundation says.

"Solar tariffs would be another destructive exercise that benefits a handful of Suniva and SolarWorld investors at the expense of everyone else." - The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

 

Tariffs would hurt many more manufacturers than it would help

The U.S. has a growing U.S. solar manufacturing sector with 38,000 workers and those workers would be hurt by tariffs, too.

U.S.companies, which are manufacturing critical solar power components, such as structural racking systems, inverters and and sun tracking technology have been adding jobs because of the massive growth of solar. Many more manufacturing jobs will be lost with tariffs than will be saved.

Jobs are only added when deployment demand (the demand for solar products) creates labor demand that exceeds existing labor supply. GTM Research estimates that the American solar industry will grow three-fold in the next five years. But with the tariffs and quota sought by these foreign-based firms, that growth will disappear and the industry will be thrown in reverse. With deployment expected to drop from 12.5 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 to 6.2 GW in 2018 with tariffs in place, there would be net job losses in the solar industry, not job growth.

Step 2 — Support our Military and National Security

The solar industry is crucial to national security and important to the growing number of military families now working in solar.

The U.S. military uses solar energy to directly power mission-critical facilities and war fighting operations. It lowers energy costs, provides a reliable source of power even in remote areas, and reduces the need for dangerous fuel resupply convoys. Artificially driving up the cost of solar through restrictive trade remedies would jeopardize many of these projects. That’s why a group of retired military officials wrote a letter to the International Trade Commission to help the administration understand that tariffs would erode the U.S. Defense Department’s energy security and resiliency efforts.

Solar is one of the least expensive energy sources in America and it was the largest source of new electric power last year in America.

“As the single largest consumer of energy in the U.S., the military depends on the availability of secure, diverse, and affordable energy resources to power military installations and mission-critical facilities,” the military officials wrote. “The DOD utilizes electricity generated from renewable and alternative sources, including large-scale solar photovoltaic systems, to directly power military bases, their systems, buildings and facilities.”

Solar employs more than 23,000 veterans. Military bases are continuing an Energy Department program called Solar Ready Vets that is connecting our nation’s highly skilled veterans to solar industry jobs.

For this great work to continue, and for the sake of our national security, we need to maintain solar's affordability.

Step 3 — Ensure U.S. Energy Dominance

Solar is the least expensive form of energy generation in many parts of the United States.

The United States leads the world in solar innovation, such as new devices for tracking and storage technologies, which are manufactured right here.

Ceding world leadership in solar installations will allow other countries, including China, to surpass us in the manufacturing of the technologies we will need in the future.

This will exacerbate the problem the Trump administration is trying to address, not solve it.

SEIA’s America First plan could restore cell and panel manufacturing in the U.S., while allowing panels to flow into the U.S. to meet the growing demands for solar energy.

Step 4 — Fight for American Workers and Don’t Turn Off This Economic Engine

Today’s solar industry is a force in America’s economy. Solar currently employs more than 260,000 Americans in well-paying jobs. The industry is growing 17 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy and has created more than 100,000 blue-collar jobs in the last five years. Last year, the industry created 1 out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S.

The Trump administration’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics said solar will be the fastest-growing occupation in America over the next 10 years – but that’s only if the administration rejects tariffs that will artificially make solar more expensive.

GTM Research valued the industry at $23 billion in 2016, and solar was the top source of new U.S. electricity generation added last year.

All of this incredible progress will be stopped in its tracks with tariffs.

If the government lets the market work and there are no tariffs, the solar market is expected to triple in the next five years.

Solar growth with and without tariffs

Step 5 — Don’t Bail Out Failed Foreign Firms

German-owned SolarWorld is for sale to the highest bidder and Chinese-owned Suniva is no longer manufacturing. They’ve been stymied by a history of mismanagement and technical failures. No allowable trade relief will save them. These companies initiated the trade case as a last-ditch effort to have the U.S. government save their hides from their creditors and didn’t think it was important enough to tell the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) how tariffs would allow them to operate at a profit. They don’t have a plan.

At this point, Suniva and SolarWorld are shell companies for hedge fund investors that made bad bets. SQN, a London-based fund that invested in Suniva, offered to drop the case in an extortion letter sent to China asking for $55 million, while a primary investor in SolarWorld is a government-run fund from Qatar.

Why should the U.S. government be bailing these foreign entities out?

"Taxpayers should not have to bail out one foreign-owned company only for their foreign financers to get another. American solar can compete just fine on its own." - Sean Hannity

 

The companies are trying to exploit U.S. trade law after failing in the market where thousands of solar companies thrive.  They failed to enter the booming large-scale utility-scale sector and they offered inferior quality products to major rooftop purchasers.

Suniva acknowledged to the ITC its inability to supply utility-scale projects. SolarWorld demonstrated its inability to supply such projects when it was offered a large set of utility-scale projects in Oregon that specifically requested American-made modules. The company could not fulfill the order with U.S. product and instead delivered solar modules made in Thailand.

Step 6: An America First Plan for Solar

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), on behalf of its 1,000 member companies and supporters, believes that tariffs and quotas are the wrong choice for America.  Putting America First is saying no to these two foreign-owned companies and saying yes to the American worker.

  • SEIA recommends that President Trump simply say no to these foreign-owned companies and stand with the 260,000 Americans in the solar industry.
  • If the President feels it is critical to provide some assistance to these two companies, we urge him to make the right choice that accomplishes the right goals:
    • SEIA recommends that President Trump create an import license fee system to imported crystalline silicon PV (CSPV) solar panels using Section 1102 of the Trade Act in combination with Section 201 of the 1974 law.
    • License revenues collected by the U.S. government are then distributed to the domestic industry to incentivize manufacturing growth. At a fee of a half cent per watt, this would raise roughly $192 million over three years for U.S. manufacturers. A 1¢ per watt fee would raise $384 million
    • This is money that would be taken from foreign manufacturers and delivered directly to American manufacturers.

No one wants to support trade taxes that harm American workers. All parties, including President Trump, can support this innovative solution to increase domestic manufacturing while saving tens of thousands of American jobs.

Process & Timeline for This Case

Petition: On April 26, 2017, Suniva filed a petition under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. The action prompts the ITC to determine whether there has been serious injury or potential for serious injury to domestic industry.

Initiation: The agency decided to initiate the case on May 23, 2017.

Injury Finding: The ITC decided on Sept. 22, 2017 that imports are a significant cause of damage to the petitioners.

Remedy Decision: Following a vote on a suitable remedy on Oct. 31, 2017, the ITC failed to reach consensus on a formal ITC recommendation.  Instead, individual commissioners submitted their own advice to the President in a report submitted on Nov. 13.

Presidential Action: The United States Trade Representative (USTR) is holding a public hearing on Dec. 6, 2017, to help inform the decision of President Trump, who must make a final determination in the case in January.