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Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

New solar tariffs could boost NC’s burgeoning electric economy

Bifacial solar panels, or panels that absorb sunlight on both sides, were previously excluded under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. They will now receive a 14.25% duty on imports.
Bifacial solar panels, or panels that absorb sunlight on both sides, were previously excluded under Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. They will now receive a 14.25% duty on imports.

The Biden administration raised tariffs on several clean energy products last week. Meanwhile, federal incentives for clean-tech manufacturers spurred billions in private, clean-energy investments in North Carolina, bringing solar panel and battery manufacturing to the state as the government tries to increase domestic clean-energy capacity.

If federal spending programs such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law are the carrots, then new tariffs on Chinese semiconductors, lithium-ion batteries and solar cells are the sticks.

Tariffs on electric vehicles will nearly quadruple this year, though the United States imports few EVs from China.

The intent is to boost domestic clean tech production, which may benefit North Carolina businesses, according to Matt Abele, executive director of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association.

“With the investments coming out of these bills, and then some of these tariffs, it’s really going to help continue to grow the market for domestic solar manufacturing,” said Abele.

U.S. consumers might not feel the effects of all of the tariffs acutely, but the end of a two-year pause on Chinese solar manufacturing duties that targets products assembled in Southeast Asia will raise prices on the majority of U.S. solar imports.

The demand for solar will continue to grow as the state pursues its 2030 emissions reductions goals. North Carolina currently ranks fourth in the U.S. for solar deployment, where solar power has eclipsed coal in energy production.

“Solar has been one of the lowest levelized costs of energy available to both utilities and to consumers,” Abele said. “Part of that has been fueled by modules that have been relatively inexpensive coming from places like China.”

At the same time, recent federal incentive programs have boosted domestic production of solar equipment. The latest new company, Boviet Solar, announced its first solar panel manufacturing facility in North Carolina earlier this year.

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Zachary Turner is a climate reporter and author of the WFAE Climate News newsletter. He freelanced for radio and digital print, reporting on environmental issues in North Carolina.