A bipartisan coalition of 19 governors, including Gov. David Ige, sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday urging him to hasten the government probe of solar panel producers in Asia that may be illegally sourcing parts from China to avoid U.S. tariffs.

The investigation, the governors wrote, has created market uncertainty that threatens thousands of clean energy jobs and the deployment of solar projects across the nation. It has led to solar panel shipment delays and cancelations that have made it markedly more expensive to build a solar energy project.

Solar Photo voltaic near Dole Wahiawa1
A report by consultant Rystad Energy found that the price of solar panels increased by 57% in 2021 and shipping costs jumped by nearly 500%. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

The market disruption brought on by the investigation “jeopardizes much of the progress achieved by the domestic solar industry and we fear this will only continue for the duration of the investigation,” reads the letter to Biden.

“Almost immediately,” the letter continues, “solar prices have jumped because of dramatic drops in solar product imports, threatening the livelihoods of more than 230,000 American workers who rely on solar jobs and raising energy costs on families.”

The situation is throwing a wrench in the shift to green energy at a time when scientists say the nation, and the world, must sharply cut the use of fossil fuels.

In Hawaii, the developer AES Hawaii cited the investigation in its filings with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission as the source of supply chain problems that have forced AES to find an alternative solar panel supply.

The investigation’s disruptive effect on the solar industry comes at a time when the industry is also grappling with inflation and rising interest rates and soaring shipping costs that led a major solar farm developer to pull out of two projects on Oahu and Maui earlier this month.

The collapse of Longroad Energy’s proposed 370-acre Pulehu Solar project in Kula and 600-acre Mahi Solar project in Kunia exposes the struggle renewable developers are facing to deliver projects on time and on budget amid unusual market pressures.

Some developers in Hawaii have responded to these mounting market pressures by demanding higher prices for the electricity their planned projects would generate.

The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved such requests this month for Maui’s Pulehu Solar project and AES’ 80-acre solar project in West Oahu. But in the case of Pulehu Solar, even PUC approval for a requested price increase did not offer the developer enough relief to continue the project.

Longroad plans to rebid the Pulehu and Mahi solar projects in December, following HECO’s announcement last week that it’s seeking proposals from developers for another round of Oahu and Maui renewable energy projects that it hopes to get online by 2027.

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