Biden lifts Trump-era tariff on Chinese solar panels
by Maggie Calzaretta, Community News Service
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch on Friday praised President Joe Biden’s recent moves to boost solar energy in the wake of the administration’s trade inquiry into Southeast Asian producers, which industry leaders say has stymied solar installations.
“Federal policies must be helpful, not harmful,” said Welch, one of 80 lawmakers who signed a letter to the president last month urging the administration to soften the inquiry’s blow on domestic solar energy.
Welch, who is running for Vermont’s open Senate seat, spoke about those issues outside Green Mountain Solar in South Burlington that morning alongside the company’s president and founder, Paul Lesure, and Chad Farrel, CEO of Encore Renewable Energy in Burlington.
Biden on Monday, June 6, issued a two-year pause on tariffs against solar products from Southeast Asia and invoked the federal Defense Production Act, which allows the White House to direct production from manufacturers to jumpstart alternative energy sectors. The moves came in response to a Department of Commerce investigation examining whether solar imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam contained Chinese parts, which are subject to tariffs.
Solar industry leaders believe the inquiry could threaten scores of planned projects and lead to thousands of layoffs.
“It’s all scary for financials, but also for customers and employees,” Lesure said. “Without panels, installers have no jobs.”
Lesure and Farrel said they believed their companies’ futures were jeopardized by the trade inquiry.
The business owners described times when they had to tell employees they wouldn’t have work for the next week because solar installations were down. Biden’s actions, they said, gave them hope that the domestic supply chain for alternative energy products would continue to grow.
Both Lesure and Farrel called for greater federal control over renewable power sources.
“We need a strong domestic solar supply chain,” Farrel said. “Jobs around the country must not be outsourced overseas.”
Welch stressed his appreciation for the administration’s response and said the hold on import tariffs is good for homeowners, the clean energy initiative and affordable energy efforts.
He also focused on the importance of manufacturing and installing affordable electric parts domestically, especially crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and panels, which had been under tariff.
The next steps? The trio stressed two points: the continued use of the Domestic Production Act to expand American clean energy manufacturing and passing environmental legislation with incentives for adopting renewable energy.