Bloomberg: Solar panel imports soared ahead of tariff decision
- In the fourth quarter of 2017, China flooded the United States with solar panels in order to avoid paying tariffs President Trump was considering and ultimately approved
- According to analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Q4 imports from China last year leaped nearly 1,200% over the the third quarter. Imports from other countries increased also, but none were as marked.
- Last month, the Trump administration issued a 30% declining tariff on imported solar equipment, and now China has filed a formal request with the World Trade Organization discuss compensation, as have other impacted countries.
China and other countries will press for compensation for the White House's decision to levy tariffs on solar panels, but BNEF's data indicates the impact may be more muted than originally thought.
Bloomberg estimates there may be 5 GW of solar panels in storage across the United States. In addition to Chinese panels, there was also a spike in panels imported from Mexico and Canada and other Asian nations, which could add up to a six-month supply of panels. The tariff exempts the first 2.5 GW of imports and subsequently declines in 5% increments over four years.
In requesting to consult with the United States over compensation, China claims the U.S. violated certain provisions under WTO rules. Other countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and the European Union are also challenging the tariffs.
The uncertainty over the solar market and what decision the White House would make have taken a toll on the industry. A report by Solar Foundation estimated the U.S. solar industry lost 4% of total jobs last year in part due to the uncertainty, while GTM Research estimates utility-scale solar installations could decline as much as 9%. Job growth is expected to resume later this year, however.
Follow Robert Walton on Twitter