Solar Energy business in the US is shut down by Huawei

Huawei has closed down its fast-growing but controversial solar energy business in the US as it continues to battle criticism from both the Trump administration and politicians in Congress.

People with knowledge of the situation have told the Financial Times the company had shut its US operation selling solar inverters, which help move electricity from solar panels on to the grid. The company confirmed it had axed a number of functions and jobs in the US, but did not confirm which parts of the business were affected.

Huaweis solar business had been growing quickly until running into opposition from members of Congress. Both Republicans and Democrats had warned that using Huawei equipment in the US solar grid could enable China to interfere with or even cut off American electricity supplies, since the gear are able to communicate with outside parties about the electricity passing through them.

Huawei is already facing the prospect of being banned both from selling its telecoms equipment to US carriers and from buying supplies from American manufacturers. With its core telecoms business under threat, the company has decided to close down its smaller US solar operation, despite denying that its products are more vulnerable than those of its rivals. 

A company spokesperson told the Financial Times: Over the past several months, we have been compelled to make moves to more closely align our business strategy with the unwelcoming climate being fostered in the United States.

After careful review of our operations in the United States, we have made the tough decision to eliminate several positions within our US representative office.

The person added that all warranty and customer service programmes would continue to operate.

Huawei has been under pressure in the US for months, with security officials warning that its telecoms equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy on US citizens if used in superfast 5G mobile networks.

Last month Donald Trump, the US president, announced he would lay the groundwork for the company to banned outright from American 5G networks, while the commerce department has announced a ban on US companies exporting to Huawei.

Some US companies have protested the move, warning that it could have knock-on effects for their own businesses. Google, for example, has told the Trump administration that Huawei phones in the US would become less secure if Google is not allowed to continue to update its Android operating system on them.

FedEx, the delivery company, is suing the US government, saying it should not be held liable if it accidentally violated the export ban when shipping products to China.

Members of Congress had been pushing for a ban on Huaweis solar equipment, which make up about 4 per cent of the US market, but more than 20 per cent of sales worldwide.

Earlier this year 11 senators wrote to Rick Perry, the energy secretary, calling on him to restrict Huaweis solar sales, warning that they posed a national security threat