Calling for An End to the Biden Administration’s Solar Tariff Investigation

I am here today to spend a few minutes on an issue that is profoundly important to Colorado, and I would say, to the presiding officer’s state as well, without being presumptuous — New Mexico, our neighbor to the south

In March, the Biden Administration launched an investigation into whether China is evading solar tariffs. That may seem fine on its face, but in reality — it has taken a sledgehammer to the solar industry in Colorado and all across the country.

There are over 330 solar companies in my state.

They’ve created nearly 7,000 jobs and driven close to $5 billion of investment.

Our companies are leading the nation. Last year, we nearly quadrupled our deployment of solar capacity compared to 2017.

And before the Biden Administration’s investigation, we were projected to double or even triple that capacity.

Washington should be lifting up Colorado’s success as exactly the kind of progress we need to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 — which we have to do. And instead, the Commerce Department’s investigation is driving our solar industry out of business, because it could end with a massive expansion of tariffs that could drive up costs and cripple that sector. Worse, the administration has said they might even apply these tariffs retroactively.

Think about that, Mr. President. If you are a solar company in Colorado, you’re already dealing with supply chain delays. You’re already dealing with labor issues. You’re already dealing with rising prices, and continued uncertainty over the clean energy tax credit, because this place can’t get its act together to pass legislation that can give certainty to American business.

And now — on top of all of that — you face the prospect of your own government sending the price of your supplies through the roof when you need that least.

Businesses can’t make decisions with that kind of uncertainty.

Investors hate that level of uncertainty.

And these aren’t talking points. This is the reality on the ground.

In Colorado, the price of solar panels is already up 30 to 50 percent — and we know Colorado families are ultimately going to bear that cost and that it’s going to slow our energy transition.

Many of our solar companies have begun hiring freezes.

Some are considering major layoffs.

Construction workers are losing hundreds of thousands of hours.

Investors are pulling out of major projects.

It’s put hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs at risk, Mr. President, which is why I am here to ring this alarm.

More than 90 percent of solar companies surveyed in Colorado report “severe” or “devastating” harms to their businesses from this investigation by the Commerce Department.

In my state, we have major solar projects that are frozen in place. And if this continues, they may never move forward at all.

A lot of these projects are in rural counties that are counting on the projects being built for jobs and tax revenue. This is the last thing they need from Washington, Mr. President.

A 200 megawatt solar project in Pueblo was just canceled since the developer can’t get the components they need.

Another 150 megawatt project in northern Colorado has been delayed.

A community solar developer told me they’ve canceled all of their new construction for the rest of the year.

Utilities in my state like United Power and Tri-State are ready to support hundreds of megawatts in new projects, but our solar companies can’t submit bids, because they don’t have the certainty to do it.

One 80 megawatt project in Watkins is “demobilized” as they wait for solar panels.

A project at Denver International Airport is indefinitely delayed.

And I’ve heard story after story like this since this Commerce Department decision to have this investigation was made.

If you add it all up, this investigation has put at least 870 megawatts of new solar capacity at risk in Colorado, Mr. President. And it’s put more than 50 gigawatts at risk across the entire country.

That’s enough to power nearly 10 million homes.

I cannot understand why the Biden Administration is doing this, Mr. President.

You can’t say, on the one hand, we want to rapidly deploy clean energy, and then use the other hand to stick a dagger in American solar.

You can’t say we’re going to fight climate change, and then punch American solar in the gut.

Last year, electricity generation from coal increased — increased! — in this country for the first time since 2014.

And at the same time that’s happening, now what we’re going to say is we’re going to cut the deployment of solar panels by a third or by half, as a result of this? It’s crazy, Mr. President.

The administration should have viewed that alone — the fact that coal is up for the first time since 2014 — they should have viewed that alone as a reason to increase our investments in clean energy, not pursue an investigation that’s sabotaging one of the fastest-growing sectors in Colorado and across the country.

I also don’t understand why the administration would do this at this time, when we have to find a way to replace Russian oil because of what Putin has done in Ukraine.

And we should be replacing that with our own oil production and with our reserves in this country.

But you’d think that supporting American solar would be on the top of the list as one of the best things we can do to diversify our energy and protect our security.

Instead, the administration has paralyzed the industry with this investigation.

It is a self-inflicted wound on America’s clean energy leadership, our energy security, and our economy — at the worst possible moment.

And Mr. President, I’ve said this before and I will say it again, I deeply believe that we need to restore critical supply chains — not just for solar, but for so many areas that are critical to our economy.

I think the era where we told ourselves the story about why we were privileging people who wanted to make stuff as cheaply as possible in China, instead of privileging other important things like protecting our supply chains, like protecting our national security, like having an economy that when it grows, grows for everybody, not just the people at the very top. We have an incredible opportunity to bring these supply chains home in order to do that.

And I think reshoring is an essential part of an economy that, as I say, works for everybody, not just those at the top.

But that is going to take time, Mr. President. And we can’t drive people out of business today when we don’t have that supply chain in place.

And until then, until we do have it in place, we can’t cripple America’s solar industry. That can’t be our policy. That can’t be the right answer. I’m sure if the Biden Administration understood the facts on the ground, it wouldn’t be doing what it’s doing.

And the least the administration can do is lift the uncertainty off the solar industry by coming out and saying: we’re dropping this investigation.

In fact, they should have said we’re going to boost American solar — that’s what we should be doing — by extending the clean energy tax credits and giving businesses certainty over the long-term.

On top of that, what we should be doing is strengthening the credits.

And that we’re going to do everything we can to take every action that we can to clear the path for American solar deployment, wind, and other types of clean energy to accelerate our transition.

That is what they should say, Mr. President.

And unlike this investigation, that would be welcome news in Colorado, and I would say almost everywhere across the country.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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U.S. Senator for Colorado

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Senator Michael Bennet

Senator Michael Bennet

U.S. Senator for Colorado

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