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Report: tariffs on Chinese PV imports could lead to loss of over 50,000 jobs

A January 30 economic analysis predicts that tariffs on Chinese-made PV cells and modules entering the U.S. could result in the loss of over 50,000 American jobs.

The Brattle Group study was commissioned by the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE), and comes just days after a group of U.S. PV manufacturers, led by German-based SolarWorld, called for retroactive duties to be applied to Chinese imports.

The report, titled “The Employment Impacts of Proposed Tariffs on Chinese Manufactured Photovoltaic Cells and Modules”, considered potential employment impacts at varying tariff rates – a 50 percent rate, or a 100 percent rate – until 2014, with both high and low estimates.

The report claims that a 100 percent tariff would eliminate 16,000 to potentially over 49,000 jobs, while a 50 percent tariff would cause between 14,000 and around 43,000 job losses.

Further, the analysis finds that potential retaliatory tariffs from China – on U.S. exports of polysilicon, a key component of PV panels – could put almost 11,000 more U.S. jobs at risk in the first year of such a tariff.

Solar-Related U.S. Employment Tariff Impacts, including Chinese Retaliation Credit: The Brattle Group

The author of the report, Dr. Mark Berkman, said that although the industry is quite complex, he believes their analysis is sound. “Even under the most conservative assumptions, we did not find a scenario where imposing a tariff would create more jobs than it eliminates,” he said.

“This analysis makes it clear that imposing even a 50% tariff, much less than SolarWorld has requested, would be devastating for American workers,” said Jigar Shah, President of CASE. “We cannot allow one company’s anti-China crusade to threaten the U.S. solar industry and tens of thousands of American jobs.”

Rising Costs for Consumers

The report claims that, on average, module prices would rise by 25 to 30 percent over the next three years.

“Price increases of this magnitude may provide some assistance to  domestic producers facing a highly competitive market, but at the same time will harm consumers, resulting in a drop in overall domestic demand,” the report said.

Adam Browning, Executive Director of the Vote Solar Initiative, highlighted a concern not considered in the Brattle Group study – namely, the impact of potential increase in solar electricity prices on public and government support for solar across the country.

“Cost is the single most important factor in the ability to grow U.S. solar markets. Most U.S. incentive programs are predicated on a declining cost-curve. In these political and economic times, getting to scale will depend on parity with alternatives,” he said.

Read the full report here.


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