According to Vote Solar, “Two bankrupt foreign-owned companies are asking the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), President Trump’s trade office, to raise the price of imported solar products. We all know that these two companies’ misuse of our nation’s trade laws is no way to advance U.S. solar leadership in the global economy. Raising the price of solar would put solar out of reach for hard-working Americans, jeopardize thousands of good living-wage solar installation jobs that are being created in communities nationwide, and stall two-thirds of U.S. solar installations over the next five years. ”
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Here’s what our CEO and founder, Gary Gerber, had to write:
I started Sun Light & Power in 1976 and it has now grown to over 80 employees. SLP employees love their jobs, and these are good-paying jobs; we employ engineers, salespeople, project managers, warehouse people, HR professionals, service people, administrators, marketers, accountants, as well as many field installers. Very few of these jobs can be exported, since we design and build PV systems based on each building’s design and energy profile, and it requires local labor to build the systems.
Our business, like most businesses in America, depends on competing in the marketplace. But we in PV are in a unique position that our marketplace also includes state-supported utility monopolies. These monopolies earn a guaranteed rate of return, but we don’t. And these utilities are free to purchase all of the low-cost foreign-made materials that they want.
Which makes sense, since most of the manufactured products sold in the US are not made in the US, and everyone knows and accepts that. But now the ITC wants to single out the solar PV industry and force the solar PV industry to pay premium prices for foreign-made products while we continue to compete against a monopoly that can buy all of the Chinese steel and Mexican copper and foreign gas and oil that it desires, without tariffs.
The solar industry in California now employs more than twice as many Californians as all of the state’s major utilities combined, and we are growing faster than any industry in the US. At least until the ITC steps in and puts a foot on our necks.
How does it make any sense at all to cripple the biggest jobs-creator in the country in order to perhaps create a few hundred low-paying manufacturing jobs? And of course, along with our employees losing their jobs, think about the manufacturing and supply chain that supports our installation business. These folks lose their jobs as well. All to support a few failed manufacturers who will never really be able to compete with cheap foreign labor. Even if this tariff somehow helps a small handful of new PV start-ups, what does their business plan look like? Four years of tariff subsidy followed by an inevitable crash and burn once the tariff is lifted. As a businessman, I wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. And meanwhile, your actions may have put hundreds of viable solar companies out of business.
I know that the president wants a tariff for political reasons. But please don’t make political expediency the reason to destroy this industry, the one industry that is doing by far the most to reverse the global warming that may well spell the end to human civilization.
CEO and founder of Sun Light & Power
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