Why is the Biden administration letting one small California company bring down the entire US solar industry? That’s what we, and a lot of other people, want to know.
Here’s the scoop: Earlier this year a small solar panel maker in California, Auxin Solar, sent a complaint to the U.S. Department of Commerce claiming that Chinese companies were evading the U.S. tariffs by building cheap solar panels in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The Commerce Dep’t is required to investigate, so they opened a case in March, but here’s the problem – Commerce is moving incredibly slowly with its investigation, saying it might not be complete until 2023.
Meanwhile, the US solar industry, which had been booming, has ground to a halt on supply chain issues and a lack of panels. The problem has gotten so bad that some utility companies are extending the life of their coal fired power plants because they can’t get materials to replace them with solar power. Some US customers who want to go solar have been told they’ll have to wait more than a year to get their panels.
This is the last thing we need at a moment when we need to rapidly expand the use of local, distributed, solar energy. Tell President Biden to step up and order the Commerce Department to expedite its investigation and stop stalling the US solar industry.
Look, when the US government decides it wants to build new energy infrastructure, it can do it – FAST. When the war in Ukraine broke out, all kinds of government agencies leaped to approve new fossil fuel infrastructure – new pipelines, LNG export terminals, and more. But when we need to build solar power, and fast, to meet President Biden’s promise to get 100% of our electricity from clean sources by 2035, there’s no such sense of urgency.
Everybody, from Congress to utility companies to climate activists like you and me agree that Commerce needs to pick up the pace on this investigation. More than 100 members of the US House and Senate have already asked President Biden and his Commerce Secretary to work faster: the Senate on May 2, and the House on May 17. But Commerce is still dragging its feet. President Biden has the power to order them to work faster, without compromising the investigation or overlooking any wrongdoing for foreign solar panel manufacturers.
It’s simply a matter of political pressure – if the President says that freeing up the supply of US solar is a priority, it can happen in a hurry. While he’s at it, the President could declare a climate emergency, and/or use the Defense Production Act to ramp up domestic production of solar panels and electric heat pumps. The point is, the President has a lot of tools and powers at his disposal. he doesn’t have to accept a massive slowdown in the US Solar industry just because one company raises concerns.
What’s needed here is some good old-fashioned climate leadership. President Biden says he wants to lead the world on climate action and renewable energy. Here’s a great chance to do it by cutting red tape, creating US jobs in solar installation, and getting the US back on track to lead the world in new solar installations.