What do these solar tariffs mean?

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Last week the President ordered 30% tariffs on imported solar cells and modules. These tariffs are nothing short of artificial price increases, leaving many in Montana to wonder how this will affect their ability to purchase solar. This will be a surmountable, albeit frustrating, speed bump on the road towards energy independence.

​The decision, touted as a way to bolster american manufacturing and create jobs, is projected instead to cost the american solar industry 23,000 jobs. Most of these will be in installation, which makes up the majority of the solar industry. In Montana, installation makes up approximately 80% of the solar industry. These are small businesses, hiring a local workforce, and providing well paying jobs. Already, the uncertainty over the tariffs has caused businesses to curtail expansion.

The tariffs are the latest in a string of political speed bumps the solar industry continues to find ways to overcome. From outdated state net metering policies, to constant attacks on renewable energy tax incentives and financing programs, Montana’s solar industry has continued to grow despite a political landscape full of uncertainty.

Yes, the tariffs will increase the price tag of a panel. But thanks to technology advances, the price of solar continues to drop – more than 70% from 8 years ago. What’s more, communities around Montana continue working to lower the “soft costs” associated with installations by removing red tape and streamlining administrative tasks like permitting fees, zoning requirements, and inspections. And most importantly, the members of the industry themselves continue to find innovative ways to install solar that meets the needs of their customers at competitive prices.

Tariffs or no, Montana’s solar industry is here to stay.

What’s next?
Many are expecting the decision to be appealed and challenged at the World Trade Organization, with countries like South Korea, China and others challenging the legality of the decision in regards to international trade agreements. The timeline of those challenges are unclear. They make take up to two years to complete, at which time the effect of the tariffs may have started to dwindle.

Read the industry’s response to this important issue:
Trump’s tariff on imported solar cells could hurt Montana’s solar industry, group says (January 23, Missoula Current)
Montana’s solar industry powers on despite Trump tariffs (January 28, Billings Gazette)
Trump’s tariff on solar is puzzling (January 28, Ravalli Republic)