This week, a group of lawyers, The Solar Foundation, released their ninth annual solar job report. In 2018, the industry entered into 8,000 solar bulbs, or a loss of 3.2 per cent from 2017. The solar thermal industry employs 242 343 people in 2018, the report says.
The solar industry is the largest renewable energy employer in the US and the second largest energy employer behind the oil and gas industry. Wind and coal path far behind solar energy in terms of number of employees. (By comparison, coal mining has lost 2000 jobs between 201
2018 marks the second year in a row that the solar industry has encountered job losses. In 2017, the Solar Foundation report showed that employment was 3.8 percent. The foundation counts only solar jobs where at least 50 percent of a person's time is dedicated to solar energy.
The Solar Foundation report attributes this slack in the market to the solar frequencies commissioned by the Trump administration in January 2018. These rates were the result of months of uncertainty in the previous year, when two foreign-owned, but US-based solar heat producers claimed the International Trade Commission that was required to charge for cheap imported solar cells and modules to maintain their business in the United States.
"This uncertainty led to delays in the project, especially for the larger installations," says Solar Foundation's report notes.
In addition, state political and economic conditions in states with well-established solar cell industries contributed to job losses. California and Massachusetts lost most jobs in the sun industry. California, which holds 40 percent of US solar capacity, partially dropped jobs due to under-pressure from government tools to add renewable capacity by 2018 after making significant progress in adding renewable capacity in previous years. In Massachusetts, the delay of a program to compensate for PV system owners (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target or SMART) increased to market uncertainty and led to job losses, according to the Solar Foundation.
Not all news was bad in 2018, however. Florida, Illinois, Texas, New York, Ohio, and Washington have all added significant numbers of solar ads, according to the report, despite the overall US dip in solar energy.
Currently, the solar industry's jobs are centered on construction, project development, wholesale trade and distribution. Solar Foundation found that three quarters of the solar energy jobs are found in these categories, while production accounts for only 14 percent of US solar energy. Engineering, legal and finance jobs account for five percent of the jobs in the solar energy industry.
The solar foundation looks forward to being optimistic. The report examined many employers in solar energy, and based on the employers' plans to hire or fire in 2019, Solar Foundation believes that the industry will see a seven percent increase in jobs year after year in 2019.
But the foundation confirms its optimism in the report with a warning: "The urgent challenge of climate change means that the progress we have seen so far is not nearly enough. The report continues," Solar energy must evolve and expand even faster to reduce carbon emissions to sustainable levels. If this can be achieved, a number of additional benefits will follow, including new solar job growth. "