Major U.S. solar company blames job cuts on Trump’s solar import tariff

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SunPower has already begun a series of layoffs.

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SunSUNPOWER SOLAR PANELS ARE INSTALLED AT 15-MEGAWATT SOLAR GENERATING STATION AT NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE IN NEVADA. CREDIT: ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES
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Think Progress

SunPower solar panels are installed at 15-Megawatt solar generating station at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

President Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on imported solar materials is already taking its toll on U.S. jobs.

After putting plans on hold last month to expand its factories in the United States, SunPower Corp., one of the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturers, now intends to lay off between 150 and 250 workers from its U.S. operations, or 3 percent of its global workforce, as part of a plan to cut operating expenses by 10 percent.

SunPower attributed the job cuts to the 30-percent tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on imported solar cells and panels, The Hill reported Wednesday. Company chief executive Tom Werner estimates the new tariffs will cause the company to lose $50 million in 2018 and as much as $100 million in 2019.

Werner’s comments built on information that SunPower released in a filing submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week. The news also came only two weeks after SunPower reported a 35-percent decrease in revenue in 2017 compared to 2016.

Werner told The Hill that it has already begun the layoffs. Based in San Jose, California, SunPower imports most of its components from manufacturing facilities in the Philippines and Mexico.

Trump slapped the 30-percent tariff on imported solar cells and panels in January after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled last year that China had harmed the domestic solar manufacturing industry with policies aimed at taking over the global market. The industry gets about 80 percent of its solar panel products from imports.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, the primary lobby group for the U.S. industry, estimates Trump’s decision may cost the fast-growing industry about 23,000 jobs in 2018 and cause billions of dollars in solar investments to be canceled or delayed. The industry currently employees more than 260,000 people, primarily in the installation business.

The possibility that Trump would raise the price of a major component to solar photovoltaic systems contributed to a slowing of orders in 2017. This in turn helped reverse the multi-year trend in sharply rising employment.

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3 Comments
  1. Joe 1 year ago

    “Make America Great Again”…..not looking too flash now.

  2. Edgar 1 year ago

    Just another demonstration of Trump’s complete ignorance of economics. An import tariff just increases the price of goods, so it is really a tax on all Americans to subsidize a few manufacturers. To make any positive difference, he should be looking at why American manufacturers are not capable of producing at a competitive price. There are already well-established measures through the WTO to combat dumping (not that Trump would have any interest in them).

    You can’t advocate a “rules-based order” to argue against Chinese expansionism in the South China sea and then blatantly ignore the “rules-based order” governing international trade.

  3. MaxG 1 year ago

    It doesn’t matter… the buffhead will ruin everything one way or another…

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