President Biden on Monday issued a series of executive orders to ensure that large-scale solar energy projects have enough foreign-made panels and cells to continue while simultaneously boosting domestic production so Asian imports are less necessary. Biden's actions come as a Commerce Department investigation on possible Chinese solar panel dumping and other trade violations threw the U.S. solar energy into turmoil, putting projects on hold amid fears of retroactive tariffs.
Biden's most significant executive action on Monday was declaring a two-year tariff exemption on solar panels from Southeast Asia. The White House said the tariff holiday would not interfere with the Commerce Department's investigation into whether China was evading export limits by moving heavily subsidized solar panels and cells through factories in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Cambodia, a charge China denies. A small number of those companies could still face retroactive tariffs of up to 240 percent when the investigation concludes.
Biden also invoked the Defense Production Act to help jump-start the U.S. solar manufacturing industry and boost production of building installation materials, energy-efficient heat pumps, and components used to create clean-energy generated fuels and build out the power grid. Solar panel companies cheered the moves, but domestic solar panel producers called Biden's executive support insufficient and his tariff suspension potentially beyond his authority.
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The White House described the orders as a bridge from current demand to a future supply from a robust solar industry. "We need to boost short-term solar panel supply to support construction projects in the United States right now," the White House said in a statement. "Grid operators around the country are relying on planned solar projects to come online to ensure there is sufficient power to meet demand."
At the same time, The Associated Press notes, "the use of executive action comes as the Biden administration's clean energy tax cuts, and other major proposals meant to encourage domestic green energy production, have stalled in Congress."
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