Wacker not in a panic over president’s actions on tariffs

By BRIAN GRAVES

Posted 1/26/18

The recent tariffs imposed  on solar panels  by President Donald Trump have not thrown a local company which produces the raw materials to make those products into a crisis …

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Wacker not in a panic over president’s actions on tariffs

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The recent tariffs imposed  on solar panels  by President Donald Trump have not thrown a local company which produces the raw materials to make those products into a crisis mode.

Trump says he is imposing the new tariffs to "protect American jobs and American workers."

The administration is imposing an immediate tariff of 30 percent on most imported solar modules, with the rate declining before phasing out after four years.

For large residential washing machines, tariffs will start at up to 50 percent and phase out after three years.

The U.S. solar industry is split over the issue. Two small subsidiaries of foreign companies that make solar cells in the U.S. favor tariffs, but a larger number of companies that install solar-power systems say their costs will rise and jobs will be lost.

Wacker Polysilicon North America, which has the largest plant of its kind near Charleston, said in a statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner, it has “always maintained that a comprehensive settlement benefitting the U.S. solar panel and polysilicon manufacturing sectors is the best solution for all stakeholders in the U.S. value chain.”

“The concern that we have with this Section 201 ruling the president just announced with the 30 percent duties on solar panels is that it applies to every country in the world,” said Wacker Vice President and Charleston plant Site Manager Mary Beth Hudson. “It even applies to our NAFTA partners in Mexico and Canada.”

Hudson said that increases the price of solar installations to the customer.

“The reason why solar installations have seen such an increase in the last couple of years is because the installed price of solar was reaching parity with the more traditional sources of energy, like fossil fuels,” she said.

She explained a 30 percent increase in the cost of solar panels “would make the cost higher than those traditional sources of energy.”

“What that is projected to do is to reduce those installations of solar panels in the U.S. and, ultimately where we are concerned, is that impacts the demand for the raw materials to make those solar panels — polysilicon,” Hudson said. “That’s the concern we have with it.”

She said recent comments by the president make the company “hopeful” there is still an opportunity for the U.S. to broker a deal with a comprehensive settlement “that results in more jobs and strengthens manufacturing across the whole value chain in the U.S.”


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