Home Trade association Clean energy industry and climate activists see ray of hope in Biden’s new move after months of ‘tough times’

Clean energy industry and climate activists see ray of hope in Biden’s new move after months of ‘tough times’


The administration has moved to remove anti-circumvention tariffs on solar panels for two years and invoke the Defense Production Act to accelerate domestic manufacturing of solar panel components, energy-efficient heat pumps, insulation buildings and transformers needed for the electrical network.

Preparing for the announcement took months of an intense lobbying campaign from a beleaguered solar industry and bipartisan governors and lawmakers. He eventually reached the highest White House levels, including White House chief of staff Ron Klain and presidential adviser Steve Ricchetti, according to two sources familiar with the talks.

The source of the solar industry’s panic was a Commerce Department investigation into whether these four countries – Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – were circumventing US trade laws by using components from China. which should be subject to US tariffs. Due to the potentially high and retroactive tariffs that could be applied to panels from these countries, the supply chain quickly dried up.

“The Commerce Department’s action — which is completely independent — created what we’ve continued to hear was a crisis,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told CNN on Tuesday.

The administration has tried to strike a balance between shielding the Commerce Department investigation and stopping further job losses in the solar industry. The sources familiar said a wide variety of offices and departments were engaged in the effort, including the National Economic Council, the White House Climate Office and the Office of General Counsel.

“I think what surprised everyone, including the White House, was how quickly the industry came to a screeching halt,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told CNN. . Data from SEIA showed that 318 solar projects have been delayed or canceled in the past two months, which would have supported between 50,000 and 100,000 jobs.

Industry leaders and solar CEOs told CNN they were pleased with the extent of the administration’s action, but some wished they had acted sooner.

“The industry argues that the administration acted quickly, but it still caused months of impact and delay,” George Hershman, CEO of utility solar contractor SOLV Energy, told CNN. “We have to get over this; it’s going to take a bit of time.”

Granholm defended the administration’s actions, saying it acted quickly while preserving the Commerce Department’s tariff investigation.

“We’re glad this has stopped the bleeding and will also put us on the path to a robust manufacturing sector,” Granholm said. “I think we acted quickly, thoughtfully and responsibly, and acted to respond to the moment.”

‘Basically Armageddon’ for the solar industry

New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, was installing solar panels in his home this spring when he started getting calls from panicked solar company CEOs in his state.

“I was fielding calls left and right, basically about Armageddon,” Heinrich told CNN.

CEOs told him they suddenly couldn’t buy solar panels from foreign suppliers – four Southeast Asian countries supply the overwhelming number of US panels and parts. With few or no solar panels to buy, large-scale solar companies couldn’t build massive new panels or complete existing projects – and they feared having to lay off their employees.

“I was hearing that this was actually going to kill the solar industry,” Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen, a Democrat, told CNN of the impacts in her home state.

While much of the solar industry felt the effect of Commerce’s tariff investigation almost immediately, it flew under the radar for a time, initially not attracting much attention from the White House. .

“It took a little longer to figure out than I expected,” said an industry source familiar with the discussions.

Hershman said Granholm was “supportable and understood the issues early on.” And clean energy trade associations communicated their concerns early to Biden’s White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and US climate envoy John Kerry. But the administration’s response accelerated when senior White House officials, including Klain and Ricchetti, got involved.

“When it got to the level where Ron Klain and Steve Ricchetti fully understood the scale of the economy and the implications for jobs, the conversation quickly turned at all levels to what an exit would look like. constructive of this economic situation,” a source said. familiar with the threads said.

Ultimately, Hopper said the arguments about job losses were particularly compelling with the White House, but administration officials were also concerned about declining solar deployment, affecting power grid reliability and energy security during Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine.

A beacon of hope for climate advocates

Monday’s announcements from the White House gave a shot of optimism to a climate movement that has been feeling down for months.

“It’s been about six months of tough times” for the climate movement, Leah Stokes, senior policy adviser at Evergreen, told CNN. Monday marked a turning point, she added: “I think it’s a big climate victory.”

Climate advocates and progressive Democratic lawmakers had been calling on the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act to build heat pumps and other forms of clean energy for months. These calls increased after Russia invaded Ukraine to help Europe get rid of Russian energy without increasing its dependence on fossil fuels.

But questions remain about whether they can achieve their greatest prize: Democrats striking a climate deal with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Manchin and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer negotiated a party spending bill, and Manchin told CNN this week there were still disagreements over climate and climate provisions. clean energy, including tax credits for solar and wind energy, as well as electricity. Vehicles.

“The administration is struggling, and climate scientists are struggling to agree on this,” Manchin told CNN.

While supporters say the administration has ended the immediate crisis with its solar industry, it still has work to do with Manchin.

CNN’s Manu Raju contributed to this report.