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Biden Uses Defense Production Act to Boost Solar Panel Manufacturing

The White House is authorizing the Department of Energy to boost manufacturing of some clean energy technologies.

Solar panels in front of a house and palm tree.
The White House aims to make more solar panels in America.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

President Joe Biden is using the Defense Production Act to increase American manufacturing of clean energy technologies, the Department of Energy said on Monday. The move is intended to increase production of solar panels, heat pumps, insulation, electric grid components and fuel cells, all products that can increase efficiency or replace fossil fuels.

The increased production of solar should be "enough to enable more than 3.3 million homes to switch to clean solar energy each year," the White House said.

This use of the Defense Production Act gives the Department of Energy greater leeway in increasing production of technologies from electricity generation to conservation. Solar panels and fuel cells can generate electricity with a much lower carbon footprint than oil, gas or coal. Heat pumps run more efficiently than and can replace gas furnaces. Insulating buildings can save an average of 11% of energy costs, the Department of Energy said.

Read more: CNET's Best Solar Companies of 2022

While climate legislation has largely stalled in Congress, the White House said that these moves show that Biden is working to "tackle the urgent crisis of a changing climate." Most climate-warming emissions come from burning fossil fuels for energy.

The change also comes just over 100 days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted questions about the national security and foreign policy implications of reliance on foreign fossil fuels, specifically from Russia. Further, fossil fuel supply lines are "especially vulnerable" in times of conflict,  Kathleen Hicks, the US deputy secretary of defense, said in the Department of Energy release.

At the same time, Biden is announcing a two-year pause on special tariffs on solar panels and components coming from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. These tariffs were put in place while the Department of Commerce investigated whether Chinese solar manufacturers were using these countries to get around tariffs placed on its solar industry. The solar industry said these tariffs would slow solar deployment, raise costs and eliminate some solar jobs.

"During the two-year tariff suspension window, the US solar industry can return to rapid deployment while the Defense Production Act helps grow American solar manufacturing," Abigail Ross, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement.