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Hickenlooper, Bennet Join Bipartisan Call for Biden Administration to Expedite Solar Tarriff Investigation Decision

May 2, 2022

Letter Follows Department of Commerce Decision to Investigate Solar Circumvention Petition, Threatening Thousands of U.S. Clean Energy Jobs and Higher Costs for Consumers

Washington D.C.  – U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper joined U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen and a bipartisan group of their colleagues in urging President Joe Biden to expedite and bring to a swift conclusion the administration’s investigation into solar panels and cells imported from Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. In their letter, the senators also request a meeting to discuss this issue. This investigation could expand harmful, job-killing tariffs on solar imports, raising costs on consumers, and has already caused widespread cancellations and delays in the U.S. solar industry. The solar industry employs over 230,000 American workers, including more than 6,500 Coloradans. According to a new report issued by the Solar Energy Industries Association, 70% of U.S. companies say at least half of their solar workforce is at risk as a result of this investigation. 

“Initiation of this investigation is already causing massive disruption in the solar industry, and it will severely harm American solar businesses and workers and increase costs for American families as long as it continues,” wrote Hickenlooper, Bennet, and the senators. “We strongly urge your administration to swiftly review the case and make an expedited preliminary determination. Such a determination should carefully consider the significant policy ramifications and reject the petitioner’s request for retroactivity.” 

They continued: “Already, as a result of Commerce’s decision to initiate this investigation, industry surveys indicate that 83% of U.S. solar companies report being notified of canceled or delayed panel supply. Without a reliable and cost-effective source of panels, existing and proposed solar projects could come to a halt. Left unaddressed, cutting off this supply of panels and cells also could cause the loss of more than 100,000 American jobs, including approximately 18,000 manufacturing jobs.”

Support from Colorado solar industry leaders for the letter to the president:

“We appreciate Senator Bennet’s leadership to ensure that solar energy expansion in America is not hampered by a lengthy administrative review process,” said Frank Prager, Xcel Energy’s Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior Vice President, Strategy, Security and External Affairs. “A timely conclusion to this trade case will provide needed market certainty as we continue our clean energy transformation for the benefit of our customers and reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2030.”

“While Lightsource bp is one of the largest purchasers of solar panels from U.S. manufacturers, with a 5.4 gigawatt contract signed last year with a domestic manufacturer, there simply isn’t sufficient U.S. manufacturing to meet our current and near-term future needs,” said Kevin Smith, CEO of the Americas for Lightsource bp. “Unless quick action is taken by Commerce to provide an expedited negative determination, this evaluation to place retroactive tariffs on panel supply will result in a minimum 50% contraction in the solar industry, and certainly result in tens of thousands of job losses.”

“As a Colorado small solar installation business, we have been doing our best to deal with the impacts of the post-pandemic supply chain issues and labor market shortages. The Commerce Department’s tariff investigation immediately impacts the availability and cost of the vast majority of the solar panel supply to the U.S. We experienced an immediate 10-20% increase in solar panel pricing from our distributors as a result of the tariff investigation. And without solar panel supply and pricing stability, we have had to pass on pursuing new commercial solar installation opportunities. We’re grateful that Senator Bennet supports resolving the tariff investigation quickly to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity for the U.S. solar market,” said Bill Clay, Owner and CEO, Solar Power Pros

“As an established PV and storage contractor in Western Colorado for almost 32 years, Sunsense Solar has weathered many challenges in the industry.  The current tariff case now threatens the foundation of what we have built.  Both business and client relationships are hanging in the balance as we scramble to strategize a path forward. We urge an expedited solution that rebuilds confidence and credibility in the industry and allows us to continue an upward trajectory in our collective goal of tackling climate change,” said Scott Ely, President, Sunsense Solar.

“Our renewable-energy future is at the brink. Over the 17 years since our founding, Namaste Solar has never seen the level of challenges currently facing our industry and our local employee-owned business. Over the last two years, we have been navigating a pandemic, inflation, talent wars, wage pressure, and supply chain constraints. The current lack of a solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) extension and the specter of retroactive tariffs is threatening to push our industry over the edge,” said Jason Sharpe CEO, Namaste Solar. 

“We appreciate Senator Bennet’s continued leadership on climate issues. With broad support from the public for the rapid deployment of solar energy, we need urgent action before we set the industry a decade or more behind. We need an extension of the ITC and an end to the threat of retroactive tariffs before it’s too late.” 

“Amicus Solar Cooperative, a Colorado Public Benefit Corporation and Certified B-Corp, is equally owned by 70 solar businesses who employ close to 4,000 solar professionals. These well-paid clean energy jobs, based in Colorado and across the U.S., are directly threatened by the Dept of Commerce circumvention inquiry. The potential retroactive application of the tariffs has frozen solar panel imports. Panel manufacturers that supply 80% of all the panels installed in our country have stopped shipping to the U.S. out of fear of retroactive tariffs or in some cases are holding shipments at the port until we agree to prepay for potential tariffs. With a lack of solar panels to install, our businesses and thousands like them across the country must consider laying off their employees to survive. Tariffs are not the answer – Commerce should end the uncertainty threatening the industry by making a preliminary expedited determination in this case. At the same time, we urgently need to provide support for domestic solar manufacturing by passing the historic climate and clean energy legislation in the reconciliation package,” said Stephen Irvin, co-founder and CEO, Amicus Solar Cooperative.

“The Department of Commerce’s decision to investigate the Auxin petition is already hindering the growth of solar. We are seeing first-hand increased costs and complexities for our distributed solar projects,” said Tom Hunt, CEO of Pivot Energy. “As a fast-growing Denver-based solar developer, we are deeply thankful that Senator Bennet and our other Colorado representatives are engaged in this critical issue, as the outcome of this investigation has real implications not only for our company but the solar industry at large.”

In addition to Hickenlooper, Bennet, and Rosen, this letter was signed by U.S. Senators Thom Tillis, Tom Carper, Jerry Moran, Catherine Cortez Masto, Brian Schatz, Sheldon Whitehouse, Tim Kaine, Dianne Feinstein, Mark Warner, Chris Coons, Alex Padilla, Angus King, Mazie K. Hirono, Christopher Murphy, Chris Van Hollen, Mark Kelly, and Maggie Hassan. 

The text of the letter is available HERE.


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