In Colorado, is the solar panel tariff a job creator or killer?

Local installer says tariff will shrink market
Posted at 10:07 PM, Jan 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-24 00:27:06-05

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo.--The Solar Energy Industries Association, the national trade association for the U.S. industry, and its members are disappointed President Trump’s decision to impose 30-percent tariffs on imported solar cells and panels. In Colorado, solar is a popular option and there are many thriving installation companies. So is it a job creator or job killer?

In 2009, Blake Jones was the “poster child” for renewable energy policy in the United States; his Gunbarrel-based company, Namaste Solar, thrived. President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden stood by his side as they signed an enormous economic stimulus package to boost the solar energy industry.

The industry is made up of more than 260,000 people working in the installation side of things. Lately, most of the businesses have been on edge as talks of tariffs lasted for months. Jones' warehouse was a little more packed than usual Tuesday as he stocked up on solar panels that he imports.

"Korea, China, Philippines, Malaysia, Mexico, Canada. They’re purchased all over the world," said Jones.

He was worried about the future of his business and the industry, and then it happened.

“If you look at the solar and the washing machine companies, that's really what happened today. You're going to have people getting jobs again and we're going to be making product again. It's been a long time,” said President Trump as he signed a trade action.

President Trump imposed a 30-percent import tariff on solar panels, hoping to create more manufacturing jobs here at home, but Jones says it will actually shrink the market.

"It is going to hurt business. It is going to cause the cost of going solar to become more expensive and that will mean a reduction in other jobs," said Jones.

For manufacturers, like Thornton's Ascent Solar, they say it's just too early to know how it will affect them. Others not involved in the industry think it can only benefit the country.

"I think it's good. I think we need to start bringing back home to America. I think we need to start creating more jobs," said Bill Giblin.

Solar panel manufacturers have struggled for years to compete with cheap solar panel imports from overseas.

"Shouldn't the whole country and the whole economy be supporting American companies and helping to make better products?" asked Karina Apodaca.

Jones says it sounds good in theory to create more homegrown jobs, but in this case, it will only undercut the ones that already exist.