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Schatz hails Biden action on solar imports

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, praised President Joe Biden’s action Monday to declare a two-year tariff exemption on solar panels produced by four Southeast Asian countries currently under investigation by the commerce department for allegedly violating anti-dumping rules imposed on imports from China.

The president is also invoking the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of solar panels, insulation and other clean energy technology.

“This move will unfreeze supply chains and allow U.S. companies to start building solar projects again,” Schatz posted on his official Facebook page. “Glad to see @POTUS taking action to save thousands of jobs and keep us on track to meet our clean energy goals.”

The commerce department’s International Trade Administration has been investigating whether Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are avoiding antidumping and countervailing duty protections by using parts manufactured in China to produce crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules. The investigation was initiated by a complaint from California-based Auxin Solar, which manufactures parts used in solar-energy systems.

Solar industry insiders have feared that exorbitant tariffs of up to 250% could be attached to solar-energy parts and equipment produced by the four countries, which collectively account for roughly 80% of all such production.

The Solar Energy Industries Association said additional tariffs could result in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs industrywide. Fallout from the investigation and its related supply chain issues has already resulted in cancelled or deferred projects in the United States.

Schatz has been vocal in his contention that so-called cell-to-wafer conversion the four countries perform as part of the manufacturing process is significant enough that they are not merely passing Chinese parts into the U.S. market.

Last month, Schatz questioned U.S. commerce secretary Gina Raimondo on the status of the investigation and emphasized the need for a prompt resolution lest the U.S. solar industry slow to a halt. 

“The president’s announcement will rejuvenate the construction and domestic manufacturing of solar power by restoring predictability and business certainty that the Department of Commerce’s flawed inquiry has disrupted,” said Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, in a statement released on Monday.