Despite the Trump Administration’s assertion that it will benefit the solar industry, the decision to impose a tariff on solar panels will have the opposite effect. While attempting to prop up a handful of American manufacturing jobs that may never materialize, many more jobs installing solar systems are at risk as the pace of installations will slow. Some estimate as many as 23,000 jobs could be lost. But the solar industry has proven resilient through bigger threats, and the global demand for clean energy will eclipse this decision.
The remedy imposed by the Administration will have a few immediate impacts on the industry. The decision will increase estimated solar costs by 10 to 12 cents per watt, based on current U.S. import prices of 35 to 40 cents per watt, according to analysis done by GTM Research. This could add up to 10% to the total cost of a solar project making some projects uneconomical, leaving installers out of work and slowing carbon-cutting clean energy deployment.
But nothing can stop solar. Installation costs have fallen substantially in the past decade, making solar the most cost effective energy option in many states and countries. Following Swanson’s Law, solar costs will continue to fall over time despite this temporary setback. This will result in cleaner, cheaper electricity reaching more people over the next decade.
Even as the cloud of the trade case loomed, U.S. investments in solar remained strong through 2017. A recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), found global investment in clean energy such as wind and solar reached about $333.5 billion in 2017, a 3% rise from the prior year, and just 7% below the record in 2015. This growth is attributed to technological advancements and declining hardware costs.
Further, solar panels account for a decreasing percentage of a project’s capital costs. The near-term cost increase imposed by the new tariffs can be mitigated by a reduction in soft costs. Soft costs, costs outside of the manufacturing and installation of solar panels, account for 64% of the overall costs of going solar.
Read more about this fresh PV analysis for the US, on Alt Energy Stocks.