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2018 - A Temporary Blip in Solar Industry Hiring

SolarJobsCensus.org

While the installed base of residential and commercial solar has been on an upwards path as of late, solar jobs in the U.S. actually dropped for the 2nd straight year in 2018 according to a new report. In 2018, in November, there were 242,000 solar workers nationwide down from 250,000 in the previous year. A recently released report from the National Solar Jobs Census about the performance of the industry in 2018 points to some top-of-mind rationale around why the drop may have occured. 

First, the impact of the Trump administratin's tariffs on on solar technology are being felt. Those tariffs, combined with steel and aluminum tariffs are said to have restrained industry growth. When the tariffs were first announced earlier in 2018, forecasts were all over the map regarding the degree to which jobs and solar industry economic output would be impacted. In early 2018, industry stalwarts like GTM Research predicted a net reduction in panel installations of around 11 percent equal to a 7.6 GW reduction in PV capacity between 2018 and 2022. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) predicted job losses would total 23,000 in the first year of the tariff and losses continuing through the duration of the term of the tariff. 

With the tariffs in effect for about a year now, and uncertainty about the market still persisting, California has lost the most solar jobs, at 10,000 over the past year. But California is also the most populous state in the nation with the most solar jobs overall. By comparison, Massachusetts lost more than a thousand solar jobs. The conventional wisdom is this will be merely a temporary slowdown in the industry and an expected outcome of the tariff particularly in the first year when the tariff is at its peak of 30% and will decline to 15%, by the 4th year on imported solar equipment. The renewable sector of the energy economy as a whole continues forward at a strong pace. Solar hardware costs continue to decline and regulatory frameworks are tilting further towards solar adoption both at the consumer and utility-scale level across several states. 

A bigger question is that while we may have experienced a temporary blip in job growth in the sector, will these tariffs actually help restore a domestic manufacturing base for the industry? 

 

 

 

Areg Bagdasarian's picture

Thank Areg for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 15, 2019 3:57 pm GMT

 

The conventional wisdom is this will be merely a temporary slowdown in the industry and an expected outcome of the tariff particularly in the first year when the tariff is at its peak of 30% and will decline to 15%, by the 4th year on imported solar equipment.

Areg, what evidence do you have that tariffs on China will decline? The purpose of Trump's tariffs (a policy supported by Bernie Sanders and others on the left, btw) was to bring jobs back to the U.S.

The obvious way to lower the tariff would be for renewables evangelists (REs) to accept jobs, at U.S. PV manufacturers, at Chinese wages. Because I don't see a line forming outside SunPower's door for those jobs, however, I assume REs aren't willing to lower themselves from their lofty perches, and we can expect the number of jobs to continue to decline until some kind of equilibrium is reached. At that point, I think REs might REalize PV solar isn't as valuable as they thought it was.

Areg Bagdasarian's picture
Areg Bagdasarian on Feb 15, 2019 7:29 pm GMT

Bob, I'm speaking only to the terms of this particular tariff, and it will fall 5% each year until it is at 15% by year 4 as stated below. 

https://news.energysage.com/2018-us-solar-tariff-impact-prices/

Surely these could be renewed by either a Democratic or REpublican administration in the future. 

I don't know what will come after this tariff but things need to be done to restore some homegrown manufacturing here and to combat some of China's unfair trade practices. But more should also be done to grow solar services jobs, as the services sector of solar is where the growth will be. 

 

 

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