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White House Officials Reportedly Worried That Commerce’s Solar Panel Investigation Is Imperiling Clean Power Agenda

Article Republished By Javier Troconis

Topline

Biden Administration officials are voicing increasing frustration about a recently launched Commerce Department probe into imported solar panels, according to the Washington Post, which the solar industry says has disrupted hundreds of solar installation projects across the country and threatens to derail the White House’s clean energy goals.

Key Facts

The Commerce Department launched an investigation on April 1 into panel makers in four southeast Asian countries, after a small California-based panel maker, Auxin Solar, petitioned the department to investigate whether the companies were fronts for Chinese manufacturers seeking to avoid U.S. tariffs by shipping from other nations.

If it’s discovered that’s the case, there could be retroactive penalties charged for the import of the panels.

The specter of penalties has significantly impacted solar development across the U.S., with 80% of American solar companies saying the probe has threatened at least half of projects planned for this year, according to the Post, citing an industry survey.

The Biden Administration’s goal of halving the price of solar power by 2030, making it the cheapest energy source, is also in jeopardy.

Officials like Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and White House climate envoy John Kerry are among those who have internally expressed qualms about the investigation, according to the Post, while industry leaders have publicly bemoaned the investigation on numerous occasions.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has pushed back at White House and industry pressure, saying she can’t intervene since the probe is designed to be an independent investigation that could take up to one year.

Crucial Quote

“I can’t take any shortcuts here because we have to pursue the investigation in compliance with the law,” Raimondo told Bloomberg television on Friday.

Key Background

Auxin Solar founder Mamun Rashid told the Post his company’s been blackballed by the industry for initiating the probe with its February petition. Rashid argues the “vitriol” in response to his complaint is a strong sign there’s “cheating” going on through the import of Chinese products from southeast Asia. Tariffs were levied on Chinese solar panels during the Obama Administration over concerns that products subsidized by the Chinese government were flooding the U.S. market. The investigation also came after a bipartisan group of 13 House lawmakers sent a letter to Raimondo urging her to look into whether “Chinese solar companies are circumventing” laws.

Chief Critic

Abigail Ross Hopper, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told the Post the solar industry is going to be “building less than during the Trump years” because of the investigation, a fact she called “hard to explain.”

Big Number

318. That’s how many solar projects have been canceled or delayed in the U.S. recently, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Tangent

NiSource announced Wednesday it would delay the closure of an Indiana coal plant for two years, claiming the move came as a direct result of the solar panel investigation. The company cited concerns about having enough solar capacity to replace the facility’s energy production.

Further Reading

White House alarmed that Commerce probe is ‘smothering’ solar industry (Washington Post)

U.S. utility NiSource to delay coal plant shutdown due to solar market freeze (Reuters)

Will Biden’s Commerce Department Really Punish Solar In Asia? (Forbes)

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