The U.S. solar industry is losing out on the creation of around 62,000 jobs and $19 billion in investment thanks to Trump administration tariffs on imported panels imposed nearly two years ago, according to a report published on Tuesday.
The industry's top trade group, the U.S. Solar Industries Association (SEIA), released the study two days before federal trade officials are due to hold a hearing to review the impact of the tariffs on solar panels.
The outcome of the International Trade Commission's midterm review could decide whether President Donald Trump makes changes to or even cancels the four-year tariff that was imposed in early 2018. The levy started at 30 percent and is designed to drop by five percentage points each year.
If that regime is left unchanged, the solar industry will create 62,000 fewer jobs than it otherwise would have between 2017 and 2021, SEIA said in the study. That's more than the 53,000 workers in the U.S. coal mining industry, according to government data.
The $19 billion in lost investment equates to 10.5 gigawatts in missed solar energy installations, enough to power about 1.8 million homes, according to SEIA.
"Solar was the first industry to be hit with this administration's tariff policy, and now we’re feeling the impacts that we warned against two years ago," Abigail Ross Hopper, president of SEIA, said in a statement.
Trump's announcement of the solar panel import levy in January 2018 was his opening salvo in a trade war aimed at helping U.S. manufacturers rebound from years of decline. Solar installers opposed the move because they rely on cheap imported panels to compete with fossil fuels.
Most of the panels installed in the United States are made in Asia.
Despite the tariffs, global panel prices have continued to fall due to an oversupply in top producer China, which cut incentives for installations there and unleashed a flood of solar products into the market.
Still, SEIA's report found that U.S. prices are among the highest in the world for solar. That makes it more difficult for solar to compete with other forms of electricity generation such as wind and natural gas.
The tariffs have had the greatest impact on newer solar markets such as Alabama, the Datokas and Kansas, because they make solar uncompetitive, SEIA said.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; editing by Jane Wardell)