The chief executive officer of South Bend-based Inovateus Solar LLC says the solar development and engineering company is being "very cautious" while it assesses the full impact of tariffs of up to 30 percent on imported solar products. Mike Pound says he thinks estimates suggesting the industry in the U.S. could shed 25,000-50,000 jobs within a year because of the tariffs are probably accurate. If costs in the industry re-stabilize, Pound believes job levels will bounce back.
Pound tells Inside INdiana Business uncertainty in solar is nothing new. "You know, it’s jokingly referred to as the solar coaster, and we have seen ups and downs. We’ve seen tariffs before and we’ve seen costs go up and down, so it is a little bit par for course," he said. "But I think where the big effect is going to be is on those kind of smaller installers — people who have been putting solar into the residential space — I think there, where there has been this huge growth in jobs and in the smaller projects. I think they’re the ones that are going to be impacted to most."
President Trump issued the tariff proclamation Tuesday. The tariffs were recommended by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as a "safeguard" against rising U.S. import levels from countries like China, which the office says have been "a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic industry."
"It is a crazy thing to do," Pound said about levying the tariffs, "in an industry that is one of the biggest job creators we’ve got at the moment." He says more than 250,000 American jobs are tied to into solar, many of which involve installation and power grid integration.
Inovateus Solar’s focus is primarily in and around the Midwest, but it has installed solar or served as a supplier to projects throughout the U.S., Australia, Chile, China, Fiji, Iceland, Italy, Liberia, Panama, and Caribbean nations.
In spite of tariffs, Pound expects pain felt by the industry to be temporary as the price of technology continues to fall. "I honestly believe nothing is going to stop it. It’s a great way to produce electricity and bring prices down."
South Bend-based Inovateus Solar LLC Chief Executive Officer Mike Pound tells Inside INdiana Business uncertainty in solar is nothing new.