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4 Silver Linings in Trump’s Solar Tariffs

It’s no secret the solar industry has already faced some intense headwinds in 2018, as seen with President Trump’s aggressive tariff on imported solar panels at the start of February.  

Incase you didn’t already know, about 80 percent of America’s solar panels come from imports, and while many spectators are wringing their hair on the sidelines, worried about solar’s future, there’s a few silver linings in the gathering clouds.

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a meeting on trade with members of Congress at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

 

  1. State Controlled Solar Incentives: Sure, the federal government might’ve put a squeeze on imported solar hardware, but luckily for us, states still have the power to offer financial incentives such as tax credits and net metering payments for excess power generation. While there are still a handful of states that offer such incentives, the outlook is questionable on how many will continue to provide them over the next few years. The domestic solar industry creates a significant amount of jobs and there will be a growing amount of pressure on legislators to use their authority under the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act to establish competitive rates for small, renewable power generation and keep the solar market alive.

  2. Rise of DIY Solar:  Any sailor worth his (or her) salt knows that when the headwinds start to blow, you bring in the boom and start to tack. The current administration’s stance against renewables will not equate to its demise, but rather its change of course. The beauty about home solar is that it’s decentralized, and puts the power of energy generation back into the hands of individuals. To offset the slightly higher hardware costs of solar, we are sure to see a trend of more people opting to install parts, if not all, of the solar rigs themselves. Afterall, necessity is the mother of innovation, and converting a home to run off the grid has never been easier.

  3. World Trade Organization Says Nah:  Trump’s tariffs have attracted opposition from environmentalists, free-market advocates, alternate energy advocates, and players in the renewable energy industries. The noise has already caused enough clamour to bring the dispute up with the World Trade Organization in Switzerland, where countries like China and others targeted in the tariff are likely to claim it is in violation of international law. A closer inspection of the provision Trump used to ratify his tariff shows it’s one rarely used by governments. In fact, the last time America tried to use it in 2001 to put a tariff on steel imports, the WTO overturned it with penalties. Exactly how things will play out in the next coming months, however, remains to be seen.

  4. Freedom: The attack on consumer solar will not be the first nor last to try and weaken America’s renewable energy industry and consolidate power back into the hands of large utility conglomerates. To keep fossil fuel prices low and appealing to the public, a recent MIT study suggests that many operators have been sucking the least expensive wells dry in order to maximize short-term revenue, leaving the more difficult and expensive fuel in the ground, which will raise prices in the future when it needs to be extracted. By hooking people into remaining with fossil fuels with aggressive solar tariffs and artificially low KWh rates, it’s not unlikely that utility companies are aiming to keep customers on the line a little bit longer so they can gouge them in the future. The decision about whether or not to go solar now carries more weight than ever, and has deeper implications with regards to claiming one’s freedom. And if history has shown us anything, it’s that the American drive for freedom should never go underestimated.

 

Author: Harold Tan

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