Huawei could face another ban in the US, this time on solar tech

The company's products pose a security threat to the nation's critical energy infrastructure, senators say.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
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Abrar Al-Heeti
2 min read

Eleven US senators wrote a letter Monday urging Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to ban the sale of all Huawei solar products in the US. The senators cite concerns over the "national security threat" Huawei's products pose to the country's critical energy infrastructure.  

Huawei makes solar inverters, which convert direct current power generated by solar panels into alternating current electricity, which appliances use when they're plugged in. The senators raised concerns that photovoltaic systems, which supply solar power, could be vulnerable to cyberattacks.

"We understand that Huawei, the world's largest manufacturer of solar inverters, is attempting to access our domestic residential and commercial markets," the letter reads. "Congress recently acted to block Huawei from our telecommunications equipment market due to concerns with the company's links to China's intelligence services. We urge similar action to protect critical US electrical systems and infrastructure."

The letter is by Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, with signatures from 10 other senators including Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia and Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah. 

The senators urged Perry and Nielsen to work with federal, state and local regulators to make sure US systems are protected.

Huawei is the world's largest supplier of telecom equipment and the No. 2 smartphone maker behind Samsung. The US has already banned Huawei from selling networking equipment here.

In a statement, Nielsen said the Department of Homeland Security will use the ICT Supply Chain Risk Management Task Force -- which involves 60 government and industry partners, including the Department of Energy -- to find and address risks to the nation's supply chain.

"Supply chain risk management is one of the Department's top priorities," Nielsen said. "We are particularly concerned about risks posed by companies beholden to the intelligence and military services of nations with values and interests contrary to those of the US and our allies."

The Department of Energy said it's also concerned about foreign threats to the US's electric grid, and constantly assesses the grid's security, according to spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes. 

"DOE has elevated its cybersecurity efforts over the last two years and taken aggressive steps in order to strengthen protections on the grid against bad actors, whomever they may be," Hynes said in a statement.

Huawei didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Huawei has had a complicated relationship with the US. The company has been accused of violating US sanctions on Iran, stealing US technology and spying for the Chinese government. Last year, US intelligence officials advised Americans not to purchase Huawei products. In addition, AT&T pulled out of a deal to sell the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, with Verizon reportedly following suit.

On Monday, Huawei Chairman Guo Ping said he agreed with President Donald Trump's tweet on 5G, adding the "US is lagging behind" when it comes to the next-generation wireless technology.