The US solar industry is infighting. Here’s why

There’s a tariff battle under way within the US solar industry. On one side are project builders that rely on imported materials, and on the other side are domestic manufacturers.

Solar tariff battle

In August, a group of anonymous US solar manufacturers that calls itself the “American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention” asked the US Department of Commerce to investigate whether solar product imports from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam were unfair. The anonymous group claims that Chinese solar manufacturers are shifting products to those countries to avoid duties on products made in China.

The US solar manufacturers want tariffs imposed on products from those three countries because they say they can’t compete with the less expensive Asian products. The solar project builders say the US won’t be able to ramp up clean energy in order to fight climate change without the imports, because the domestic manufacturing industry is still very small.

The Department of Commerce issued questions to the anonymous group on Wednesday, including a request to identify themselves. The group says it’s chosen to be anonymous because it’s afraid of retribution, and the Commerce Department wants the group to explain who they think will exact retribution.

The Department of Commerce says it will make a decision about tariffs and will issue a decision within 45 days of receiving a response from the anonymous group.

Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, which opposes the tariffs, issued the following statement in response late yesterday:

We are disappointed that Commerce did not dismiss these meritless petitions outright. However, the detail and nature of the questions Commerce asked the anonymous petitioners clearly indicates that the petitioners have produced a filing largely devoid of the information the department needs to assess whether to initiate this case. We believe that when and if the petitioners amend their original submission, it will become abundantly clear that they have no case for circumvention.

Read more: How US utilities are trying to block rooftop solar adoption

Photo: “Bayview Home” by mjmonty is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.