Nearly 10,000 jobs nationwide were lost in the solar industry in 2017, according to a new report released by The Solar Foundation. But, the group’s eighth annual national jobs census also found that in states where solar is still ramping up, new jobs are on the rise, with Indiana seeing a three percent increase.
Ed Gilliland, senior director of the foundation, says the long-term trend continues to show significant jobs growth.
“Solar employs over twice as many people as employed in the coal industry, five times as many as employed in nuclear energy, and almost as many that are employed in natural gas,” he explains.
The solar workforce has grown by 168 percent over the past seven years, from some 93,000 jobs in 2010 to more than 250,000 jobs in 2017. Gilliland says worries about the outcome of a trade case played a significant role in the loss of jobs. Last year the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that cheaper solar panels from China were hurting U.S. manufacturers, and in January the Trump administration levied a levied a 30-percent tariff on those imports.
Gilliland says other state-level policies, such as reducing how much home-solar providers are compensated for delivering electricity to local grids, are also slowing growth. He says the majority of solar manufacturers in the U.S. are not set up to produce cells and panels, and many are concerned that the new tariffs will decrease demand overall, which could lead to even greater job loss.
“We have about 36,000 manufacturing jobs in the U.S. that work on solar,” he says. “That’s a 48-percent increase since 2010, and most of those manufacturers do not manufacture cells or panels.”
According to a U.S. Trade Representative fact sheet, state investment helped increase China’s share of worldwide solar cell and panel production from seven percent in 2005 to 61 percent in 2012. The Trump administration’s tariffs are scheduled to decline over a four-year period.