Tariffs, International Trade and What it Means for Solar

This post is an update to a previous post on the topic: International Trade Spat Pushes Solar Prices Higher for New Mexicans

If you are like most readers, the nuance of what goes on at the International Trade Commission is a great cure for insomnia. The prospect of such a boring read might, if uncontrolled, fill one with the urge to run across several lanes of interstate traffic. But don’t despair – we’ll make this easy. You can quickly decide if this is important to you with the increasingly thorough discussion below:

Incredibly Simplified Executive Summary: Panel prices have been going down for a decade, and now they’re going back up. If you want to go solar in the next 5 years, you need to do it ASAP. Not joking.

More Nuanced Synopsis: Prices have been tumbling down in solar for the last 10 years. Right now, prices are as low as they have ever been. This is good for everyone:  good for the consumers, good for the industry, and good for the planet.  

International Tariffs Affect Local Pricing

[pullquote]Panel prices have been going down for a decade, and now they’re going back up.   If you want to go solar in the next 5 years, you need to do it ASAP. Not joking.[/pullquote]

Solar has made sound economic sense in New Mexico for years, but as PNM rates have increased steadily in more recent years, the economics have gone from “it makes sense to do this” to “it makes little sense NOT to do this.” All that is still true.  What changed was a pending trade case before the International Trade Commission. 

Even before a decision was announced, industry speculation was already driving up panel prices. Panel prices are still the largest determining factor contributing to the bottom line of the cost of a residential solar installation. Speculation caused any inventory of less-expensive panels to be quickly snatched up and manufacturers saw the threat of scarcity as a reason to raise prices.

Tariffs Are Coming, and Panel Prices are Rising

Now the International Trade Commission decision is in, and it ain’t pretty. Low-cost panels, largely from China, are all going to be hit with tariffs that exceeded analyst expectations. As a result, prices are now on the upswing. At Affordable Solar, we had (and still have) significant inventories of more reasonably priced panels, but when they’re gone, they’re gone. If you want to make a sound financial move and go solar, you should do so immediately. We don’t expect that the economics of solar will go back to the “old days” of being UN-favorable, but the economics will get less compelling and may even go back to a break-even proposition.

Extremely Detailed Synopsis with Actual Trade Commission Decisions: Ok, you asked for it. We didn’t think we could write anything nearly as boring as the decision itself without risking company-wide narcolepsy (we do need to operate heavy equipment and deal with high voltage, people), so we’re just linking to the actual decision here:

In Depth Decision: SolarWorld Wins Again: Big Anti-Dumping Tariffs in US-China Solar Panel Trade Case

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