Solar panel tax would decimate the industry

If this tax comes to fruition, the price of foreign solar panels will rise exponentially, and the price of domestic solar panels will not decrease, making the product much less affordable. (Marufish/Flickr Creative Commons)

Nowadays more than ever it seems that people want to be trendy. Whether it be due to the constant desire to show off to your friends or due to the fact that social media serves as a great platform to display your newest conformity to the craze is unimportant. No matter the motive, it is clear that people enjoy feeling like they are a part of something when they hop on the bandwagon.

One such trend that has become much more popular in recent years is the use of solar panels. Since the turn of the century, when there were virtually no solar panels in use, the amount of energy derived from solar panels has increased to approximately 305 gigawatts globally as of 2016. In fact, right now we are in the middle of what some people have been calling a “solar boom” as solar panels are currently considered a trendy item and thus their sales are increasing tenfold. However, due to a statement released this past week by the U.S. International Trade Commission, the price of solar panels may be on the rise, thus slowing and possibly even halting this trend that benefits us in so many more ways than just making us feel popular.

The decision in question was made by the International Trade Commission last week in a four to zero vote claiming that, “imported solar panels from China and other countries were injuring U.S. manufacturers.” This conclusion now will provide President Trump with the opportunity to impose a tax on any foreign imported solar panels, thus raising their price and discouraging American citizens from purchasing the items. Although a decision has not yet been made with regards to how the president is planning on dealing with this revelation, many have speculated that he will most definitely be placing a tax on the foreign goods by the end of the year.

Unfortunately, while this impending tariff may persuade some people to no longer purchase imported solar panels, it will have many negative ramifications as well. Since 2010, the price of solar panels has decreased by around 70 percent, causing the energy source to become more affordable for many households and surging solar energy ahead in the markets. If this tax comes to fruition, the price of foreign solar panels will rise exponentially, and the price of domestic solar panels will not decrease, making the product much less affordable. This in turn could lead to the halt of the current “solar boom,” which not only hurts the market for solar companies all over the world, but it also hurts our planet directly.

While the point of this predicted tax would be to help the U.S. solar panel business, its side effects will actually hurt the industry. As the tax is hypothesized to actually reduce the number of people buying solar panels, this in turn will mean less work in the sales and installation of solar energy products. A Time article reported that while there are approximately 8,000 people working for the solar panel manufacturers that this tax would benefit, there are another 240,000 people that work in related jobs that this tax would harm. This solution may claim that it is trying to help the economy, but in reality it is only looking at ways to make the U.S. more money, and does not look at the big picture of what would really be best for America and all of its people.

Not only would this solar panel tax hurt the solar panel industry economically, but it would hurt the world to a much greater scale. The amount of people relying on solar energy has increased vastly since the turn of the century, and in switching to this type of energy people are helping to reduce their carbon footprint. Our environment is on a very sharp downward spiral due to the effects of climate change, and one of the best ways to combat this impending disaster is through the use of renewable energy. By imposing this tax, and thus reducing the number of people willing or capable of utilizing solar energy, America will be doing a huge disservice to the cause to combat climate change.

To put it bluntly, the idea of having a tax on foreign solar panels is a poorly crafted and underwhelming way to tackle a complex issue. This tax would not only completely halt the growth of the solar industry, but it would reverse the progress that the U.S. has made in combatting climate change. If we ever hope to improve the markets for solar energy in this country, then we must also hope that our president has the decency and intelligence to look deeper into this issue, instead of just choosing the superficial answers.


Emma Hungaski is the associate opinion editor  for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at emma.hungaski@uconn.edu.