The news comes just weeks after solar panel import tariffs were significantly weakened.
A couple of weeks ago, the Biden administration faced a heavy lobbying effort to remove tariffs from solar panels imported from China, which has an enormous, subsidized solar production industry riddled with the alleged use of forced labor. We thought that was a bad idea.
Unfortunately, the administration didn’t agree. While the president actually extended the tariffs, he did cut their reach way back by excluding a significant section of solar imports altogether. Solar installers who don’t care where the panels they install come from rejoiced. More business for them! Domestic solar manufacturers that were using the tariffs as cover to build out production capacity didn’t.
“Today’s decision places at risk billions of dollars in existing investment, thousands of jobs, our country’s energy security and a climate-critical transition to net-zero emissions,” said Mark Widmar, chief executive of domestic panel manufacturer First Solar, to the New York Times.
That same article pointed out that since the tariffs first went up in 2018 “some new manufacturing plants had opened since the tariffs were imposed, like Jinko Solar’s facility in Florida, LG Electronics’ in Alabama and Hanwha Q CELLS USA’s in Georgia. And some existing companies, like First Solar, had expanded operations.”
But today, we have bad news: LG is getting out of the solar panel business entirely, and laying off the entire workforce at its assembly plant in Huntsville, Alabama. It said in a press release:
The decision comes as uncertainties in the global solar panel business continue to increase due to a variety of contributing factors, including the intensification of price competition and the rising cost of raw materials.
Emphasis added. It sounds like there are a variety of reasons LG is getting out of solar panel manufacturing, both in the United States and South Korea. But it’s likely not coincidental this is happening shortly after the tariffs were gutted.