Commerce secretary: ‘I share the sense of urgency’ on solar power probe

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo defended the Commerce Department’s investigation of solar panel component manufacturers Wednesday, telling the Senate Appropriations Committee that she hoped to conclude it as quickly as possible.

In April, Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) Expressed concerns the case “could cost us 100,000 American solar jobs and jeopardize our common clean energy goals,” saying it has already delayed more than 300 projects.

At the Wednesday hearing, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) Asked Raimondo about the probe, which was initiated in response to a petition by US-based solar company Auxin Solar.

“Why is there no industry-supported threshold to initiate this anti-circumvention inquiry?” Moran asked. “There is a process that’s being utilized to keep tariffs [on solar panels] in place to the detriment of the industry by one small company. ”

Moran noted that Auxin would not have been privy to any exclusive information about the conduct of the companies in question and asked if the Commerce Department had made a finding based on its own information that the investigation was appropriate.

The investigation, initiated in March, involves allegations that solar panel component manufacturers in several Southeast Asian countries were fronts for Chinese component firms seeking to avoid US tariffs.

“I’ve heard from many of you and many in the industry, and I share the sense of urgency,” Raimondo responded. “I understand how fragile the solar supply chain is and how we need to move forward.”

Raimondo went on to say the statute that led to the investigation was based on a threshold of five criteria and that the department was moving “as fast as we can.”

“Statutorily, there is no discretion” available to the department, she said, adding that Congress passing a law incorporating that discretion could help speed up the investigation.

The investigation has sparked widespread alarm both within the solar industry and among its allies in Congress. The Solar Energy Industry Association has reduced its projections for solar power installation by nearly 50 percent in response to the probe, and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) Last week led a letter calling on the department to expedite the end of the probe.

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