President Joe Biden has authorized the Defense Production Act to boost U.S. manufacturing of solar power and several other forms of clean energy, the White House announced Monday.
Biden authorized the Department of Energy to use the DPA to accelerate domestic manufacturing of components for solar panels, energy-efficient heat pumps, building insulation, electrical transformers needed for the power grid, and equipment such as electrolysers and fuel cells. The White House also announced that it would leverage the power of the federal government’s clean energy stock market, using federal government procurement to increase solar manufacturing in the United States.
The White House also announced a two-year suspension of anti-circumvention tariffs on solar panels that have effectively crippled much of the US solar industry, after intense lobbying by much of the industry. American solar. U.S. solar installers and trade associations said the threat of those tariffs was having a chilling effect on the industry, after the Commerce Department launched a tariff investigation in March. Due to the high and retroactive tariffs that could result from the investigation, hundreds of large-scale solar projects in the United States have been delayed or canceled, and workers in the solar industry have been laid off as a result.
Commerce’s tariff investigation into whether four Southeast Asian countries that supply about 80% of US solar panels and parts – Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – use components from China which should be subject to US tariffs has not been successful.
While a senior administration official stressed that the White House is not interfering with Commerce’s quasi-judicial process, he also defended the new two-year tariff break.
“It’s a process where we’re building the integrity” of Commerce’s investigation, the official said. “It will continue to run its course and it will continue to be advanced by the Department of Commerce in a manner consistent with its internal regulations and processes.”
The official said Biden’s executive orders would reference climate change as justification for taking executive action, as well as the Western mega-drought that is drying up water for hydroelectric power in states like California.
“What we are seeing is a confluence of the impacts of climate change – droughts in the West, for example, reducing the production of our hydroelectric resources,” the official said, adding that it is crucial to deploy more energy. clean as solar to make up for this lost electricity production.
Commerce Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance Lisa Wang said in a statement that Commerce’s investigation will continue “without interruption” and that “regardless of Commerce’s conclusion at the end of the investigation , it will apply once this short-term emergency period is over”.
“As per the President’s statement, no solar cells or modules imported from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam will be subject to new anti-dumping or countervailing duties during the emergency period,” Wang added.
Biden’s decision was applauded by some US solar companies and lambasted by others.
“President Biden’s decisive leadership is enabling companies like mine to move forward on stalled projects and bring solar workers back to our jobsites,” said George Hershman, CEO of utility-scale installation company SOLV Energy. But Hershman stressed that Commerce’s continued investigation would focus on the industry and urged Commerce officials to end the case quickly.
Other companies that weren’t affected by Commerce’s investigation, such as U.S. solar panel maker First Solar, said the ruling was a blow to U.S. solar panel manufacturing.
“Today’s proclamation directly undermines U.S. solar manufacturing by giving unrestricted access to state-subsidized Chinese solar companies for the next two years,” said Samantha Sloan, First Solar’s vice president of policy.
Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers in states where solar power is a big employer had lambasted the administration for the investigation. Last month, Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada asked Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo about the investigation and spoke with colleagues to complain about job losses in her state stemming from the threat of tariffs. . Rosen and other Democrats were also joined by Republicans, including North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis, in their concerns about the retroactive tariff threat.
In a statement, Rosen called Biden’s announcement “a positive step that will save America’s solar jobs.”
“The risk of additional tariffs on imported solar panels would have been devastating to America’s solar projects, the hundreds of thousands of jobs they support, and our country’s clean energy and climate goals,” said Rosen.
This story and its title have been updated with additional reporting.