Solar Project Delays Threaten Climate Goals

Brian McCowan, Zondits staff, 5/25/2022

The Biden administration has adopted aggressive climate goals, including decarbonizing the U.S. power sector by 2035. The exponential growth of solar energy installations is widely recognized as a necessary component of achieving these goals. However, the solar industry is now warning of a major slowdown in new installations, including massive projects that would have significant impacts.

Industry representatives point to the supply chain issues that are plaguing many other industries, but also to an investigation into possible abuses of international tariff agreements between China and the U.S. The Trump administration dramatically increased protective tariffs on the import of solar photovoltaic panels and components from China. The Biden administration reduced but did not eliminate those tariffs. Recently, reports have surfaced that China is circumventing the tariffs by using other Asian countries as conduits for the export of Chinese products to the U.S. A U.S. Commerce Department investigation into the practice is disrupting the flow of solar panels into the U.S. and in return, solar projects are being delayed.

Atlanta, Georgia-based utility Southern Company alone has delayed, for at least a year, nearly a gigawatt of solar energy projects. Many other utilities and solar energy developers throughout the country have also mothballed projects due to supply chain issues. The principal U.S. solar trade organization, the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) warns that if existing tariffs are expanded, a serious slowdown of installations will occur leading to the loss of thousands of clean energy jobs. The SEIA has conducted a survey of solar panel manufacturers and installers and found that about 80% of the participant firms are experiencing delays and cancellations of orders for both panels and cells.

The published survey results are included in the links below.