Solar Tariff Flare-Up Shines on Industrial Policies’ Role in Energy Evolution

Originally published for customers May 20, 2022.

What’s the issue?

The solar industry mobilized quickly and loudly to protest a Department of Commerce (DOC) antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) investigation that could lead to more tariffs on imported solar panel components. Just the threat of tariff-driven supply chain price increases purportedly shut down the majority of in-process solar development projects, leading the industry to claim that by even continuing this investigation Secretary Raimondo is making the Administration’s net-zero goals impossible to achieve. This trade action is part of decades of industrial policies to incubate and then protect the industry.

Why does it matter?

To meet net-zero goals, a century’s worth of energy infrastructure must be built and repurposed in the next two decades. The enormous and expensive effort is more than a “moon shot” and the world is way behind. This potential escalation of the existing solar panel trade dispute is another example of how regulatory and policy ambiguities can and will disrupt the energy evolution.

What’s our view?

Coordinated industrial policies are needed over long periods of time to build and sustain strategic technologies and industries contributing to strong economies, jobs, national security, and now the energy evolution. To be effective, these policies must: 1) survive election cycles; 2) balance geopolitical, economic, and policy goals; and 3) mobilize government and industry to rapidly and massively scale up new innovations and infrastructure. The best policies focus on broad support to research and development.


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