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New tariffs on renewable energy imports

By March 12, 2018Blog

New tariffs on renewable energy imports

We’ve all been dealing with uncertainty, but the 30% new tariffs on renewable energy imports is just a ripple in the renewable energy industry. Here’s why …

I have good news and bad news. Renewable energy is viable compared to coal produced energy … and increasingly affordable (see article ‘In Colorado, a glimpse of renewable energy’s insanely cheap future). Yet, we’re facing an obstacle caused by Trump’s new tariffs on renewable energy (see article ‘Trump’s 30% tariff on imported solar panels may cost jobs’ imports.

Ebbs and flows in renewable energy industry

Utility company Xcel RFP announced recently that, in support of renewable energy, it will likely pursue the Colorado Energy Plan Portfolio (CEP), to include photovoltaic (PV), wind and natural gas. As Vox puts it, “Renewable energy is not ‘alternative’ anymore.”

Just days after this news was released, Trump issued a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. It will eliminate a projected 23,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs. The growth we’ve seen in the industry is possible due to cheap solar panels mainly from China.

I’m curious about the motivation behind the tariff. I can see that it may be intended as an incentive to have solar panel production in the U.S. as opposed to importing it. The short-term effect — increase the cost in light of his cheerleading for coal. It calls into question the direction we’re headed. My clients generally still see solar panels as a novelty because of what’s fast becoming a myth, that states the technology is not efficient enough to be competitive.

Actually, prices have been dropping. Solutions are in the works. While wind and solar power can come and go with the weather, the solution is to attach storage for excess energy. The numbers are pretty close, with or without storage.

Delay, only some progress

So the tariffs are just an unfortunate delay to this progress. Obviously, the market is going in the direction where it’s affordable and viable.

New tariffs on renewable energy imports

6kw PV Array

Affordability remains one of the primary obstacles people face when buying a home. It costs less to own a home than to rent an apartment. Almost everyone focuses on the upfront costs of buying or building a home, not on the costs for operation. The sustainability component is: If you don’t have solar and are using traditional heating and cooling methods, your utility payments significantly increase. As an architect, I see a trend in young millennials who live in small apartments in the city, where utilities are included in their rent. Then they have kids and move into suburbs, unaware of how much utilities cost. Especially if they buy new or build, solar panels on the roof are a worthwhile upfront investment.

My 20-something clients Petros and Dessi stand out because they have a strong propensity for sustainability and renewable energy. Our project leaves open the avenues for future technology. This couple is paving the way with infrastructure, while they await Tesla’s Solar Roof (https://www.tesla.com/solarroof) Meanwhile, we’ve included Tesla charging stations in each bay of the garage, which they will use to charge a Tesla SUV as well as future electric vehicles (EVs.) The panels can then be paired with the Tesla Powerwall (https://www.tesla.com/powerwall) and blend power storage for batteries … which creates an ecosystem for the future.

Inspire commitment to wind and solar power

The desire for a healthy, sustainable lifestyle will survive the setback this tariff imposes. I’m committed to it. Renovation plans for my own home are also underway. Our sustainable design component is a 10kw photovoltaic array, the typical commercial solar electric system. We’re modifying the roof to maximize the number of units we can include; turns out we can fit 30 modules, which will support most of our utilities. Construction will start this summer.

New tariffs on renewable energy imports

10kw PV Array

Renewable energy betters our people and our planet. Using it is a step in the right direction. I want to decrease my ecological footprint, and inspire others to the same. Solar panels, for example, are linked to self-sufficiency. We can achieve freedom from other technologies when we utilize this one. Going off the grid is very intriguing — disconnected, but not discomforted.

The more people embrace it, the more development will continue. This year, those who are already interested will not be deterred. I predict they’ll strike a balance between efficiency and whatever loopholes can be found to get around the tariffs. The tax itself is just a ripple. The more damaging effect is that it reinforces a negative opinion of renewable energy.

Meanwhile, I seek clients who enjoy a commitment to a lighter footprint. I believe that new tariffs on renewable energy imports will only delay, not prevent our embrace of this important technology. Enlightened consumers will see the undeniable benefits. Going into 2018, we’ve all been dealing with a high level of fear and the unknown. The good news is: We can take control of our lives. Let’s use our homes to create an environment where we feel comfortable and happy. Seize the opportunity to affect change by the choices that we make. We have the power.

Mark Benner

About Mark Benner