Monthly imports of U.S. solar photovoltaic modules increased about 16% to an average of 644,000 kilowatts in the first four months of 2019, from the same period in 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The four-month period in 2017 was before the United States announced tariffs on silicon solar cells and modules. Imports are measured based on the capacity of the modules, or solar panels.
The imports rose in mid-2017 before tariffs were announced and fell to less than 300,000 kilowatts in the months following the effective date of the tariffs in February 2018. The U.S. International Trade Commission started to look into the tariffs in May 2017 after two solar manufacturers based in the United States, Suniva and SolarWorld, asked the commission for import relief through the Trade Act of 1974.
The resulting tariffs will remain in effect for four years, with a 30% duty in place for the first year. The tariff rate will decrease 5 percentage points for each year the tariffs are in effect. The tariffs affect several module types, including crystalline silicon, thin film and concentrator types. The tariffs exempt the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported cells per year and imports from some developing nations.
The continued decrease in the cost of solar modules might have offset some of the effects of the solar tariffs, according to the EIA. Global spot prices of monocrystalline and multicrystalline modules, excluding tariffs, fell 27% and 26%, respectively, from December 2017 to July 2018. Since mid-2018, solar module prices have been flat, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.