Biden energy chief voices ‘deep concern’ about tariff impact on US solar goals

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on Thursday said she shares “deep concern” about the impact of potential solar energy tariffs on U.S. renewable energy goals. 

Granholm faced questions during a House Energy & Commerce Committee hearing over a Biden administration probe into allegations of tariff circumvention by Southeast Asian companies that manufacture solar panel components.

“This case could cost us 100,000 American solar jobs and jeopardize our common clean energy goals,” stated Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), referring to the Commerce Department probe and the potential impact on the U.S. renewable energy goals.

“Already 318 projects are being canceled or delayed and if the administration decides to impose tariffs it could cause solar capacity to fall 75 gigawatts of the pace needed to reach the president’s solar goal,” he added.

Peters went on to cite a projection released Wednesday by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which reduced its forecast for solar installations by nearly half.

The top solar industry group blamed the Biden administration’s probe into allegations of Asian manufacturers dodging tariffs for the reduced forecast.

“I share your deep concern about this,” Granholm replied, saying the White House’s climate office is similarly concerned about such obstacles to reaching its renewable energy targets.

“It’s safe to say there is an awful lot of effort around how to address this, given that it is an adjudicative proceeding” by the Commerce Department, she added.

Granholm conceded that “we clearly have to accelerate” expansion of domestic solar manufacturing, pointing to such provisions in the department’s 2023 budget request.

“The bottom line is… we have to make sure we are not slowing down our efforts, but we’re also not installing panels that are circumventing or are potentially built with labor from the solar industry in Xinjiang.”  

Granholm appeared before the panel to address the Energy Department’s fiscal 2023 budget. She is also slated to testify before the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The Commerce Department announced its investigation last month, saying it would examine whether panel components in several countries were manufactured as part of an effort by Chinese firms to avoid tariffs.

The probe came in response to a petition by California-based solar manufacturer Auxin Solar. Numerous members of Congress have expressed concerns over the potential of both tariffs and the investigation to hurt U.S. solar development.

Earlier this week, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told senators, “Commerce has not made a determination, one way or the other, on the merits of whether circumvention is occurring, and no additional duties have been imposed as a result of the initiation,” a source familiar told The Hill.  

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