Dozens of solar energy industry workers gathered in front of the International Trade Commission Thursday to rally against solar tariffs, arguing they have caused economic and environmental harm.
The solar industry is rapidly growing, but with tariffs on solar panels, the reduced activity in the U.S. is increasing emissions and causing developers to cancel their investments — leaving consumers to pay a higher price for solar.
SEIA president Abigail Hopper said it’s an important issue that needs to be addressed.
“We are trying to convince our commissioners that every single solar job matters,” she said. “These solar tariffs are not helping the industry, they are stamping down growth.”
Nearly two years ago, the Trump Administration imposed a 30% tariff on imported solar cells and modules, which could cost the solar industry $19 billion in investment. According to a recent report provided by sei.org, more than 62,000 U.S. jobs have been lost due to the tariff.
President Trump’s January 2018 decision to impose tariffs came after a petition seeking solar tariffs was filed by two solar manufacturers, Suniva and SolarWorld. The action was geared toward China, but President Trump’s tariffs now apply to all imports.
With temperatures on Thursday in the 40s, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which sponsored the rally, distributed yellow scarves along with coffee and doughnuts to each protestor. They also held signs high in the air and brought out a mascot as members of the public waited in line to get into the hearing.
Standing outside an hour before the hearing, protestors created a scene by shouting chants like “no more tariffs on the sun, solar jobs for everyone,” playing live music and giving speeches amplified by megaphones.
Law and policy analyst Alexandra Wyatt was one of the few to speak out on the issue.
“Ending solar tariffs would be an amazing way to bring back solar jobs, help people’s pockets and help the environment,” Wyatt said. “It’s just a win, win, win.”
SEIA vice president Dan Whitten supported Wyatt’s words of encouragement and then asked the crowd to repeat after him during a chant. “What do we want? Solar jobs. When do we want them? Now.”
The hearing was expected to last for more than five hours as commissioners listen to various testimonies followed by a round of Q&A from witnesses that are for and against the request to end solar tariffs.
The trade commission re-examined Section 201 which permitted the Trump Administration to grant temporary import relief by placing tariffs on solar panels. A post-hearing brief will be released and a full report will be given to the President in the coming months.
In the meantime, Hopper said her company will continue to fight to get the tariffs out the way, so they can protect jobs and continue to grow solar.