SunPower seeks duty exemption on select solar imports

By Editor


SunPower, a company owned by France’s Total, has asked the US administration to exempt a segment of its solar panel imports from new tariffs.

SunPower said the move would allow the solar company to reverse proposed investment cuts and ease plans to expand U.S. panel manufacturing, Reuters reported.

The request by SunPower marks the first attempt by a major U.S. solar company to sidestep a controversial 30 percent levy on imported panels announced by President Donald Trump in January.

The US administration feels that the special duty on imports would boost U.S. manufacturing. But the global solar industry warned that there will be higher costs and thousands of job loss in the solar industry.

SunPower’s request covers only its imported premium panels, and not the less efficient and cheaper “P-series” panels which dominate the market.

San Jose, California-based SunPower manufactures most of its panels in the Philippines and Mexico.

“An exemption would allow SunPower to materially reverse a decision made immediately after the tariff announcement in January to cancel a $20 million investment in its next-generation cell technology that would have created hundreds of jobs in California and Texas,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said.

SunPower last month said the tariff would force it to cut 150 to 250 non-manufacturing jobs.

The cheaper P-series panels could be made at a new U.S. facility that the company would build, probably in the Southwest. SunPower is in the process of narrowing down its options to two locations.

A big investment in solar panel manufacturing as a result of the tariff would mark a win for the Trump administration.

China’s JinkoSolar said it plans to build a U.S. manufacturing facility. SolarWorld, one of the panel producers behind the trade case that resulted in the tariffs, will hire 200 employees this year.

Suniva, the bankrupt company that petitioned the US administration in April to impose tariffs, has not publicly outlined its plans.

The exemption request will undergo a 30-day comment period before the U.S. Trade Representative makes a decision.

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