Court rules that imported solar panels are bad for US manufacturing

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The International Trade Commission has ruled that American companies are being hurt by cheap solar panels from overseas, providing an opportunity for President Donald Trump to tax imports from countries like China.

The decision has big implications for America’s $29 billion solar industry, which has grown tremendously in the past decade. Solar power is much cheaper now, and there were 10 times as many large-scale solar projects in 2014 as there were in 2004. But companies fear that if cheap foreign imports are banned, solar energy will become more expensive, and that could hurt both existing and future projects. Some businesses had even begun hoarding panels in case they became more expensive.

Today’s unanimous decision ruled that the companies SolarWorld Americans and Suniva were struggling financially not because of their own poor management, but because they couldn’t compete with cheap panels from countries like China, Mexico, and South Korea.

Suniva is now suggesting import duties of 40 cents a watt for solar cells, and a floor price of 78 cents a watt for panels. (Right now, the average floor price, worldwide, for panels is about 32 cents.) The Solar Energy Industries Association warned that implementing these suggestions could end up doubling the price of solar, thus destroying demand and causing Americans to lose their jobs.

The ITC will give further recommendations to Trump by November 13th.

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