WASHINGTON — Using a Nevada facility as a backdrop, U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen on Wednesday unveiled her bipartisan rebuke of the Biden administration’s extension of tariffs on foreign-made solar panels and cells that have resulted in a rising prices and costing jobs in the United States.
Rosen is one of eight senators who have urged the Biden administration to drop tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on foreign panel makers — a sanction that was intended to boost domestic production of the equipment.
But that didn’t happen and instead drove up the prices of the panels and components, making them more expensive for domestic solar power producers in states like Nevada.
Rosen, along with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., filed legislation to repeal the Biden administration’s tariff extension and to direct the Department of Energy to create a program to ramp up domestic panel manufacturing and cells.
“The tariffs were the wrong approach when President Trump imposed them, and I have to say they were wrong when President Biden extended them,” Rosen said in a phone interview with the Review-Journal.
Rosen appeared at residential solar energy company Sunrun in Henderson with David Bobzien, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy, which supports the Rosen legislation and has made solar an energy priority.
Nevada is one of the top 10 states for solar energy, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. But the majority of the state’s roughly 6,100 solar jobs are in installation, distribution and maintenance.
Higher costs for components would hamper the growth of the solar industry, Rosen and state officials said.
“Here in Nevada, we only have sunshine and we have to use it,” Rosen said.
Opposition to solar
But the vast solar farms that cover acres of land in Nevada have also drawn opposition from Native American tribes, environmental and conservation groups concerned about the health of fragile desert ecosystems and native species.
And not everyone in the solar energy industry is in favor of the tariffs being repealed. Some companies and executives believe tariffs strike a fair trade balance.
President Donald Trump imposed Section 201 tariffs on solar panels and cells in 2018 to boost U.S. production of components imported from China and other countries. Biden this month let some of the tariffs expire but extended others for another four years, which the Solar Energy Industries Association says could risk investing in current systems and cost 67,000 jobs. in clean energy across the country.
Before the extension was granted, Rosen and eight bipartisan senators, including Moran, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Martin Heinrich, DN.M., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Tom Tillis, RN.C., and others wrote to Biden explaining the harm of keeping tariffs in place.
“We fully support efforts to promote domestic manufacturing throughout the solar supply chain. However, it will take time to achieve this worthwhile policy goal, as current domestic generation meets only 15% of U.S. solar demand,” the senators wrote on January 19.
Bill to repeal tariffs
Rosen has now filed legislation to repeal the extension, which she says would keep the clean energy industry thriving and reduce US demand for fossil fuels.
The bipartisan bill also wants the Department of Energy to expedite programs to speed up U.S. production of the panels and cells to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign-made components.
The energy programs would help establish American manufacturing of solar components with factories that “will take a few years to get them up and running.”
With events unfolding in Ukraine likely to impact global energy markets, Rosen said that country needs to be resilient and independent of others, whether friendly or less friendly.
“We can no longer, in this world, depend on just one other country for what we need,” Rosen said.