The U.S. solar boom is one of the great American success stories of the 21st century. It was the #1 source of new electricity capacity in the U.S. last year, and rooftop solar is helping families become more energy independent, save money, and support the environment and economy in their communities. That’s why 89% of all Americans want to see the solar boom continue according to a recent Pew poll, with overwhelming support from members of both parties. It seems that everyone loves solar — well, everyone except for two bankrupt, foreign-owned solar companies, which are trying to game the system and impose a backdoor solar tax on the US industry.
These two companies are attempting to use an obscure trade law from the 1970s in order to recover their failed investments, which is just as shady as it sounds. It’s actually been revealed that one of the “debtors in possession,” the private equity firm SQN, sent a letter to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce attempting to extort money in exchange for making their legal ploy go away.
The scary thing is, it could work. If the International Trade Commission and the White House find in their favor this fall, new solar import tariffs could double the price of solar panels, making America the world’s most expensive market for solar. This would also eliminate a projected 88,000 solar jobs, cutting the legs out from under one of the country’s fastest growing industries and endangering the livelihoods of families nationwide.
It’s a truly bizarre story that should alarm anyone that believes in the power of the free market and fair competition. Over the past few years, our industry has worked hard to reduce the cost of going solar through countless innovations at installation and construction companies, tech companies, and even finance companies like Mosaic. In the process we’ve collectively helped over one million homeowners across America go solar — and provided good jobs to over 260,000 workers spread across every state in the country.
This backdoor solar tax would be a big loss for everyday Americans — and a big win for an overseas private equity firm, as well as certain utilities that are already using their political connections and monopoly status to undermine competition from home solar. They might not be able to stop the solar revolution, but they’d like to nothing more than to slow it down and keep homeowners captive for a few more years.
With stakes this high, America’s solar industry is mounting a vigorous defense. And, in keeping with solar’s strong bipartisan support, it’s getting help from both sides of the aisle politically. Last month, the Energy Trade Action Coalition was launched to fight back against the proposed solar tax, with a broad base of members including unions as well as conservative free trade groups like the Heritage Foundation. And earlier this month, a bipartisan coalition of 69 members of Congress wrote an open letter to the chair of the International Trade Commission urging her to reject the foreign companies’ case.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has been doing a fantastic job spearheading these efforts, and you can (and should!) sign up with their campaign to find out ways you can help support our industry in the weeks ahead. And as the case moves forward, you can be sure you’ll be hearing about it from us here and on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages — so stay tuned, and help spread the word! The U.S. solar industry has an incredible story to tell, and it’s more important than ever to make sure it’s one that our policymakers hear loud and clear.