Biden steps up enforcement of tariffs on Chinese solar imports –

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The Biden administration on Thursday announced it will end exclusions from tariffs for certain utility-scale solar imports and begin charging duties on solar imports from four Asian countries as part of its broader effort to strengthen domestic solar manufacturing and crack down on unfair trade practices by China.

White House national climate adviser Ali Zaidi and White House climate policy adviser John Podesta billed the actions on a call with reporters Wednesday as the latest in a series of steps the Biden administration has taken to reduce reliance on China regarding clean energy technology and manufacturing supply chains following billions of dollars of clean energy and climate spending authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act designed to spur new domestic production.

Over the last several years, the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have created what Zaidi described as a “macro-expansion in U.S. manufacturing capacity” in the clean energy sector. “These announcements help ensure that that capacity is available — and is strengthening the resilience and robustness of the global supply chain goals,” Zaidi said.

Earlier this week, the Biden administration ramped up tariffs on a range of Chinese-made clean energy products, including electric vehicles, batteries, steel and aluminum products, semiconductors, and more.

But solar has also been a key focus: President Joe Biden on Tuesday directed U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to increase tariffs on Chinese-made solar wafer, cell, and module imports, doubling the tariffs from 25% to 50%, using authority granted by Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.

The actions announced Thursday will end the exclusion of so-called bifacial solar panels, which are commonly used in utility-scale solar projects, from being subject to tariffs under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act.

The exclusion of bifacial panels from tariffs was first approved in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump due to a dearth of U.S. manufacturing. But since then, imports of these panels have surged to represent nearly all solar panel imports in the last five years, according to a White House fact sheet, creating what administration officials described as an “unfair” import environment that made it difficult for U.S. makers to compete.

White House said they will also “imminently” remove the bifacial module exclusion from Section 301 tariffs, though they declined to specify an exact date.

Biden officials also announced they will end a 24-month pause on tariffs on solar cell and module imports from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. The four countries had been slated to be hit with tariffs on the grounds that they were being used as pass-throughs for products from China that otherwise would have been subject to duties. But Biden ordered a delay on the imposition of the tariffs, justified as providing a “bridge” for domestic developers to continue accessing cheap imports while domestic manufacturing ramped up.

U.S. manufacturing and deployment have both grown dramatically in the two-year period, officials said, allowing them to move forward with the scheduled June 6, 2024, end date for the tariff bridge.

The bridge had sparked fierce criticism from some solar manufacturers. Last August, the Commerce Department finalized a decision to impose additional tariffs on manufacturers from the four countries after determining they were indeed skirting existing U.S. tariffs on China.

Since Biden took office, U.S. solar manufacturers have announced more than $17 billion and 335 gigawatts of manufacturing investment in the solar supply chain, White House officials said Wednesday, with enough in planned investment for solar modules to power 18 million homes.

Solar deployment has also doubled during Biden’s first term. In 2023, new solar installations climbed to a record high, with 32.4 GW of new capacity installed, a 50% jump.

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