SunPower Chief Executive Tom Werner says the company is going to put a $20 million U.S. factory expansion and hundreds of new jobs on hold.
The company wants its solar panels to receive an exclusion from federal tariffs the Trump administration imposed on imported solar panels.
The imposed tariffs of 30 percent on imported solar cells and modules, is being described as a move to protect the U.S. industry while signaling a more aggressive stance towards China.
SunPower solar panels are among the most efficient in the industry at transforming sunlight into electricity. So the company wants is premium-priced panels to receive an exemption from the tariffs.
The company argues that their unique technology cannot be compared with that of more conventional models, including those made by the companies that sought the tariffs, Suniva and SolarWorld.
“We make a different product that’s higher efficiency and that product costs more,” Werner told Reuters in an interview. “We pay a higher tariff despite the fact that it’s an American technology.”
The tariff announcement didn’t include any product exemptions, and while rules for requesting an exclusion will be announced later, SunPower’s decision only confirms what most in the industry have feared will be a huge setback on jobs and much-needed progress.
“We have to stop the $20 million investment because the tariffs start before we know if we’re excluded,” Werner said. “It’s not hypothetical. These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”