A lump of coal for the solar industry
The Trump administration is wrong to back tariffs on solar cells while subsidizing coal and nuclear power
In the next few weeks President Donald Trump and his administration will make decisions that could jack up the price of solar panels, boost electric rates for millions of Americans and lead to job losses, all to the benefit of a handful of corporations.
If the administration takes those steps, we believe it will undermine working markets and dabble in crony capitalism that has already drawn fire from both the left and the right.
Trump has until Jan. 13 to act on a recommendation from the International Trade Commission to impose tariffs on imported solar cells. Two bankrupt solar panel makers — Suniva and SolarWorld — filed a complaint arguing that cheap imports have hurt domestic producers. The commission agreed. It is worth noting that Georgia-based Suniva is owned by Chinese and Wall Street interests. SolarWorld is the subsidiary of a German company.
Inexpensive imported solar cells have fueled the growth for solar power and solar employment. Stiff tariffs could lead to the loss of up to 88,000 jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Also opposing any new tariffs are environmental and conservative groups, including The Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council and the R Street Institute, which called the case “an example of the worst kind of trade protectionism.”
At the same time, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is pushing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to take action by Dec. 11 on a proposal to give financially struggling coal-fired and nuclear power plants subsidies for having a 90-day supply of fuel. The commission says it will need more time.
The proposed rule change comes after a U.S. Department of Energy study, which we already criticized for seeking “sops for the coal and nuclear industries.”
Colorado isn’t in one of the Midwest or Eastern wholesale power markets that are targets of the proposal, though Xcel Energy and other Colorado utilities are exploring joining a wholesale market.