After seven years of rambunctious growth led by lower costs and consumer demand the amount of people employed by solar power in the US has fallen to 242,343 from a high of 260,077 at the end of 2016. The Solar Foundation, which produces the National Solar Jobs Census, cited the impact of President Trump’s tariffs on solar panels as well as state policies, but it also anticipated that solar jobs will increase in 2019.
The amount of people employed in the US solar industry fell by nearly 8,000 jobs (3.2 percent) compared to the 250,271 people it employed in 2017, the census, which surveyed companies in the industry, found. It’s the ninth annual census from the organization and while the amount the solar industry employs now is still much higher than the 93,502 people that had solar jobs in 2010, it shows that state and federal policy is having some impact on the industry even as demand for solar power for utilities, companies and homeowners skyrockets.
“Nationwide, the jobs decline in 2018 reflects a slowdown in installed solar capacity. Solar companies delayed many utility-scale projects in late 2017 while awaiting the outcome of a petition for new tariffs on solar panels and cells,” said Solar Foundation President and Executive Director Andrea Luecke. “These delays led to reduced capacity growth and fewer jobs in the first three quarters of 2018.”
“The impact these unnecessary tariffs are having on America’s economy and its workers should not be ignored. The damage, from a decline in jobs to a decline in deployment, far outweighs any potential benefits the administration intended,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “We hope this data serves as a wake-up call to the administration that the Section 201 tariffs should be reversed before any more Americans lose their jobs.
Luecke also cited the impact of state level policy challenges and the business climate. She said these were in states with established solar markets. In California alone, the state saw more lost solar jobs, 9,576, then the entire nation lost throughout the year. Massachusetts lost 1,320 solar jobs, and North Carolina lost 903 solar jobs in 2018.
So while solar jobs decreased significantly in some states, they increased in a majority, 29 states, thanks to supportive policies in emerging markets.
In other states, supportive policies and the rapidly declining cost of solar technologies helped drive an increase in employment in 2018. The most jobs gains were in Florida, which gained 1,769 jobs; Illinois, which gained 1,308 jobs; Texas, which gained 739 jobs; and New York, which gained 718 jobs.
The census anticipated that things will improve in 2019. “With a backlog of utility-scale projects and new policy incentives in key states, the outlook for solar jobs is expected to improve in 2019. Survey respondents predict that solar jobs will increase 7 percent in 2019, bringing the total to 259,400 jobs,” Luecke said.Tweet