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Karl Rabago. executive director of Pace's Energy and Climate Center is quoted in "City Newspaper" about solar energy


Karl Rabago. executive director of Pace's Energy and Climate Center is quoted in "City Newspaper" on solar energy

City Newspaper: "Power struggle"

by Jeremy Moule

From "City Newspaper:"

"...The Solar Energy Industry Association says as many as 23,000 people, from factory workers to installers, could lose their jobs this year because of the tariff.

If fewer customers buy the panels because of increased cost, "it will be telegraphed through the rest of the system, so domestic installers and domestic component manufacturers will also face some level of reduced business," says Karl Rabago, executive director of Pace University law school's Energy and Climate Center. "That, by the way, is where the layoffs will happen in the United States."

But the tariff's effect won't be felt evenly across the industry.

Bob Kanauer of LTHS Solar in Penfield says he doesn't expect the tariff to impact his business much, since his customers "pretty much demand" US-made equipment. And he expects that even with the tariff, some of the foreign-made panels will still be cheaper.

The tariff will mostly impact large projects and buyers who are looking for the absolute lowest price possible on a solar energy system, he says.

SunCommon, a 60-employee company based in the Town of Ontario, designs and builds residential, commercial, and community solar projects. Kevin Schulte, the company's CEO, says the tariff is having a minimal impact on the quotes SunCommon is currently getting from its suppliers. And the systems are still cheaper than buying electricity from a utility, he says.

Schulte says he's more concerned about the challenges posed by the artificially low price of natural gas and the persistent misbelief that Upstate New York doesn't get enough sun for solar to work. Some parts of the year are more productive than others, but about the only time panels don't produce electricity during the daylight hours is when they are blocked by snow.

Solar is attractive to many people and businesses because it's a clean energy source that lessens their contribution to climate change. But its economics make it feasible. Buyers are recouping their investment through energy savings faster than they used, to thanks to rapid, drastic improvements in the technology and a sharp drop in systems' prices. As a result, the number of solar installations has soared. In 2017, New York had 78,323 solar systems – from individual home systems to utility solar farms. That number was 9,079 in 2011.

The tariff threatens to upset the economic dynamics working in solar's favor. And just as it is affecting different parts of the solar industry differently, it may hit some places in the US harder than others.

"New York's probably fine from the tariff," Schulte says. It'll most impact project development in markets where solar is already lagging, he says.

Pace Energy and Climate Center's Rabago echoes what Schulte says about New York. The state has a good solar resource and strong policies that support the technology, they say. Some of the policies are very technical, but others aren't, such as tax incentives for buyers. And the state's renewable-energy standard should also accelerate renewables growth, they say.

Massachusetts also has strong solar policies and good resources, Schulte and Rabago say. California and Arizona, which both have far more large, utility-scale solar farms than New York, may take a hit. But the already strong solar industries in those states should prove resilient.

The Carolinas and Georgia may be in a more precarious position when it comes to solar, Schulte says. Both have low electricity prices and don't have policies as aggressive as New York's, he says.

And Rabago says that foreign solar producers will likely find a way to bring down the cost of the panels to compensate for the tariff to some extent, Rabago says. Since solar energy systems have already been getting cheaper, it's possible that the tariff could just slow that trend or that prices could flatten, he says."

Read the full article.