Solar Module Imports Into US Partially Recover After Tariffs

Imports of PV solar modules are beginning to recover in the wake of tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports. The White House imposed tariffs on imported silicon solar cells and modules in January 2018 in the wake of complaints from two global solar manufacturers headquartered in the U.S., Suniva and Solar World, who said they were being hurt by cheap solar modules being dumped on the market by China and others.
Solar Module Imports Into US Partially Recover After Tariffs
Dennis Schroeder / NREL

They petitioned the U.S. International Trade Commission for relief, and based on the commission's recommendation, the Trump administration imposed tariffs on the import of cells and modules that are currently set to remain in effect for four years.

The duty for the first year was 30 percent, and it scheduled to decrease by five percentage points for each year the tariffs are in effect.

The tariffs affect many types of PV modules, including crystalline silicon (c-Si), thin film, and concentrator types. The tariffs exempt the first 2.5 GWs of imported cells per year, as well as imports from certain developing nations.

In a release issued earlier this month, the Energy Information Administration says its data shows there was a marked increase in solar cell and module imports in mid-2017, as people sought to get ahead of the tariffs, and then there was a sharp decline in imports after the tariffs went into effect, hitting a low of 300,000 kilowatts in February 2018.

However, the agency reports that for the first four months of 2019, solar PV module imports average 644,000 kilowatts, about 16 percent more than the average imports in the first four months of 2017, before the announcement of the trade case that ultimately led to the tariffs.

Continued decline in the cost of solar PV modules may have offset some of the effects of the solar tariffs. The global average spot prices of both monocrystalline and multicrystalline modules, not including any tariffs, declined 27 percent and 26 percent, respectively, from December 2017 to July 2018.

Since mid-2018, PV module prices have been relatively stable, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

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