Trump trade threats could have impact on power grid, energy storage

The most recent tariff threats against China made Tuesday by the Trump Administration includes many components used in the power grid, energy storage and renewables sector, but some experts say those import taxes may only have minimal effect on their industries’ exponential growth patterns.

The president has warned of a 25-percent tariff against a wide range of Chinese products, including many related to the energy sector. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative’s document alleges intellectual property theft and unfair limitations on American goods going to China.

The office’s list includes hundreds of items. From the power grid sector, those include wind-powered electric generating sets, transformers, fuses, relays and switchgear, among other things. In the energy storage sector, the list includes lithium, air-zinc and nickel-cadmium storage batteries.

Energy Storage Association CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman is busy preparing for the ESA’s annual conference beginning later this month in Boston, but she took time to comment on the potential impact of the Trump tariffs on Chinese storage exports. The inclusion of those Chinese battery components will not impact the energy storage market in a dramatic way, she said.

“Nonetheless, ESA is concerned by the battery tariffs announced yesterday because the Administration is creating unnecessary uncertainty for the U.S. energy storage market,” Speakes-Backman said in the statement. “If these tariffs are adopted, the companies and people who plan, build, and service battery storage facilities will be faced with risk that may inhibit storage deployment, even as the U.S. looks to strengthen its energy infrastructure and enhance resilience.”

Research firm IHS reported that the global energy storage market installed about 6 GW in 2017 and should reach more than 40 GW by 2022. Numerous reports estimate that the storage market grew by triple-digits in each of the past three years.

Other reports noted that the tariff list excludes inverters and solar cells. Some observers expressed relief and optimism that the impact will be minimal on solar power growth in the U.S.

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