Biden aims to jump-start solar energy projects stalled by probe

President Biden on Monday attempted to boost the new energy sector with measures aimed at increasing solar panel production and installation.

Biden signed an executive lawsuit halting all new tariffs on solar panel parts from Asia for two years. Imports of such panels have been halted following an investigation by the Department of Commerce. He also invoked the Defense Production Act to accelerate domestic production for clean energy projects, including solar panel components.

“For too long, the country’s clean energy supply chain has been overly dependent on foreign sources and opposing nations,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in an official statement. “With the new DPA agency, the DOE can help strengthen the domestic solar, heat pump and grid manufacturing industries while strengthening America’s economic security, creating high-paying jobs and reducing utility costs in the process.”

Solar projects, including those in California, have slowed in recent months as the Commerce Department conducted a lengthy investigation into whether imports of solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam evade tariffs on Chinese-made goods.

The industry – nervous about retrospective tariffs on goods already imported once the investigation closes – has been forced to hold billions of dollars in reserve.

Biden’s move, the government said, is an attempt to free up that capital to ramp up production and serve as a “bridge” for solar companies over the next two years as domestic production ramps up.

On Biden’s orders, the Defense Production Act is also being used to boost manufacturing of transformers and network components, insulation and heat pumps, an increasingly common alternative to natural gas furnaces that the government sees as critical to the transition to cleaner energy sources. This is especially true given the market impact of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

“To reduce the amount of energy required in our buildings, leading to less dependence of the US and its allies on adversaries like Russia for oil and gas, heat pumps are an important solution,” the Department of Energy said in its official announcement.

Just last month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban gas appliances in new buildings as part of a broader initiative to move to a zero emissions policy by next year.

With Biden’s broader domestic policy agenda — including the proposed $550 billion to address climate change — stalled in the Senate and inflation still running high as mid-election season approaches, the president has increasingly turned to executive action to help trying to stabilize the economy.

He has invoked the Defense Production Act multiple times: to address infant formula shortages, boost domestic production of key minerals for electric vehicle batteries, and boost production of tests and vaccines amid an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden’s latest actions, the White House says, put the U.S. on track to triple domestic solar manufacturing capacity by 2024.

Kevin Johnson, a spokesman for Clean Energy Freedom, a climate advocacy group, announced the moves as “a historic move.”

“This is the kind of unilateral action the White House needs to address the energy and climate crisis,” Johnson said. Biden aims to jump-start solar energy projects stalled by probe

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