The US Trade Commission Considers a Solar Tax, Drives Panel Prices Up

Update: Solar Tax Enacted, But It Won’t Slow Us Down

So, it happened. Late on January 22nd, President Trump created a 30% import tax on solar panels. This is a step in the wrong direction, but a tax can’t stop the solar movement. We’ll get past this.

Read more here: Solar Tax Here Today, Solar Industry Here For Good.

Tax Deadline Set: January 26th

With a few weeks left until the President’s January 26th decision deadline, it’s anyone’s guess how extreme a solar tax he will levy. The latest news is of an unreleased White House memo indicating that advisors to the president are pushing for even higher tariffs than we thought.

The International Trade Commission’s tariff recommendations, though harmful, were not as harsh as those sought by petitioners Suniva and SolarWorld. Now, it looks like the Trump administration may go bigger than both the ITC’s recommendations and the petitioners’ initial request.

Suniva and SolarWorld contend that a tariff in their favor would create American jobs, though independent research firms advise it would actually slash the U.S. solar market by 60-70%, adding potentially thousands of dollars to home solar systems.

We’re doing everything we can to help more Vermonters take action before this tax kicks in.

The proposed tax would increase the cost of home solar by $1000s.

Late in May, the Trade Commission began considering a tax that would set a minimum price on certain solar equipment, doubling the price of solar panels. The Commission will publish its report this September and action is expected by President Trump this November.

Panel prices jump with the news.

The solar market responded quickly to the news. As solar installers across the nation began stockpiling panels, availability tightened and prices went up. (Remember those supply and demand charts from Economics 101….)

We’ve never seen the market respond this immediately and significantly. We’re used to changes, but this is bigger. – James Moore, co-founder of SunCommon.

These suddenly higher costs buck a long-standing trend of decreasing solar panels prices. Should the proposed tax take effect this fall, this summer may be a historical low in panel pricing.

So what does that mean for those considering solar?

Simply put, sooner is better. With the current run on panels, prices will likely climb until Trump makes a decision on the proposed solar tax. If the tax proposal were implemented in its current form, the average home solar system would increase in price by $2000-3000.  The price of commercial projects would jump 15-20%.

What is SunCommon doing to respond?

1 Bring the fight to DC.

Kevin Schulte (CEO of SunCommon NY) heads down to DC in mid-August to make the case for solar. We join many economic and industry experts in calling on DC to back off and let this industry grow!


2 Help our customers beat the tax.

We’re filling our warehouse to help as many homes and businesses go solar – at today’s prices – as we can.


3 Consider more US-made panels.  

Given the solar tax will only apply to imported solar panels or panel components, why not just buy US-made? Good question. The goal of this new trade policy is to drive up the price of all solar panels. If the policy goes into effect, panel prices will jump, regardless of where they’re made. No escaping that.

Still, buying American is better, right?


But, that’s not all we consider. Here’s what we look for in our partners:

  1. Do they produce quality equipment and panels that will stand up to Vermont weather for decades?
  2. Is the company strong, reliable? Will it be around for 25 years to service the warranties on its solar panels?
  3. Do we like the company – Is it local? Mission-aligned?

Two of the three solar manufacturers who provide panels for our home solar systems are US companies. SunPower, for example, is based in Silicon Valley and employs 1500 Americans. They produce the most powerful and most durable panel available, and much of that production happens overseas – in the Philippines and Malaysia.

Solar panel manufacturing is an international business. The US Trade Commission had to inform 163 nations of our consideration of a solar tax. We like supporting US businesses – and we do! – and we recognize that quality technology is made around the world. Just like our iPhones, our computers, and our televisions.


4 Fill up our warehouse!

We are stockpiling solar panels. The more panels we can squeeze onto our shelves now, the longer we can hold our prices down.

Recent analysis from the Huffington Post:

The Economic Reality Of Proposed Tariffs On Solar

by Tom Werner, President and CEO of SunPower

“With America’s energy future in mind, President Donald Trump’s Administration has a unique opportunity to embrace a solar sector that is helping to grow our nation’s economy, creating high-paying jobs and reinforcing a competitive free market.

Unfortunately, a new trade action by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) would move the United States away from the free market and toward regulated solar markets that prevailed in the past. Proposed tariffs of 40 cents per watt on solar cells and a minimum price of 78 cents a watt on solar photovoltaic (PV) modules would drive up prices for solar panels for residential consumers, corporate customers, and electric utilities.

As a longtime Republican and energy CEO, here’s my perspective on what this would do:

  1. Hurt America’s ability to win in the marketplace.
  2. Upend existing companies’ efforts to reduce their energy costs.
  3. Outsource U.S. solar demand.
  4. Eliminate high-paying energy jobs.
  5. Stifle innovation here at home.


America deserves better than putting ourselves at a competitive disadvantage in the rapidly growing solar power market. We can continue to lower the price of energy, create jobs, make a point to embrace the free market and show the rest of the world the way when it comes to innovation.

This starts by saying “no” to restrictive solar tariffs.”


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