Georgia reaction to tariffs on imported solar panels

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — President Donald Trump fulfilled a campaign promise this week to clamp down on China in terms of trade.

He imposed a 30 percent tariff on Chinese imported solar panels which sparked concerns from many in Georgia’s solar industry — including a public service commissioner.

“We really have an outstanding program of 9,000 plus jobs that have been created with our solar program,” said Lauren “Bubba” McDonald.

McDonald says he doesn’t want the booming industry in Georgia hurt by the efforts to clamp down on imports and he doesn’t want efforts to get more solar into the mix of energy to be curtailed.

He says the higher cost of imports will cause some consumers not to pay to go solar.

In Savannah, Julian Smith who owns and operates Smith Solar says he doesn’t use Chinese imports, but rather a German made solar panel.

He thinks those German imports might be affected in some way by the new tariffs, but he’s not certain. Smith does think the tariff will hurt the number of “installs” this year overall and in turn hurt businesses.

“Some companies may go out of business,” he said, “It’s really hard to go to someone and say okay the price of your installation was X but it just went up by 30 percent.”

McDonald says there are an estimated 200 businesses in Georgia involved in some aspect of the solar industry. Many of those jobs are in the installation process.

The Solar Energy Industries Association posted information on its website estimates that 23,000 jobs will be lost due to tariffs on Chinese imports, saying that President Trump’s decision is a “loss for America.”

McDonald says businesses in the state may be helped by the fact that a good number of imported panels can still be sold before the tariff kicks in.

He says he has always been a Trump supporter. However, he also said he believes “the tariff is unnecessary at this particular time when we are so focused on carbon-free generation.”

Smith says job losses suffered initially may come back at some point but also told us for the most part, he doubts the tariff will be helpful.

“Trying to even a ball field this large is not going to be a good thing,” he said.

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