Tariffs and the Solar Industry – “SunPower Panels Exempt from Tariff”

October 16, 2018

In January 2018, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer announced that the Trump administration had officially approved tariffs on imported solar panels. This step of imposing tariffs on goods coming into the United States from China is quickly escalating into a trade war. It has many people on Wall Street and in manufacturing companies across the nation on edge. As the current administration and their Chinese counterparts continue to battle back-and-forth about raising tariffs on goods, such as the components needed to manufacture solar panels, many consumers are left wondering how this will impact the price of goods that they buy. Will the cost of solar panels and installation rise, thus offsetting the ultimate savings? Our solar customers will be glad to know that SunPower panels are officially excluded from the 30% tariff agreement. Read on to find out more about this development and where we stand within this volatile trade situation.


The Solar Tariffs

As a result of the Section 201 trade case, President Trump announced that tariff rates will be applied to global solar imports. This immediately alarmed the vast network of manufacturers and producers of solar panels who are dependent upon components from China to make these businesses thrive. The United States has long battled with China regarding the import of solar components for our solar industry. For years it was thought that maybe the Asian country was flooding our markets with cheap cells and panels or was bypassing the duties altogether by setting up manufacturing locations in Taiwan. The Trump administration maintains that American products will not be overshadowed by Chinese products in its quest for putting American businesses first. However, this tariff was counterintuitive to the end goal of making solar affordable through innovation and the global supply chain.


Exclusions from The Section 201 Tariffs

Immediately after the announcement of the increased tariffs, the USTR received over 50 requests for exemption from the 30% panel tariffs. Some requests were refuted while others were accepted. Starting Sept. 19, 2018, certain products from the import duties will be excluded from the 30% tariffs. These include:

  • 45-W off-grid solar panels
  • 4-W solar panels
  • 60-W panels
  • 120-W flexible and semi-flexible panels used for motor vehicles and boats
  • 90-W frameless solar panels in colors other than black or blue
  • IBC and busbar-less solar cells
  • IBC and busbar-less solar panels
  • modules using only U.S.-made solar cells

Due to this exception, SunPower’s highly differentiated IBC cells and modules are excluded from tariffs. This is excellent news for both our company and our clients. In a statement by SunPower Chair and CEO Tom Werner remarks, “SunPower can now fully focus our resources to deliver the best solar solutions to our customers, develop the next wave of solar technology through American research and development and invest in American solar manufacturing.”


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