2018 - A Temporary Blip in Solar Industry Hiring
- February 13, 2019
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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?