- National Solar Jobs Census 2020 for the US market shows workforce reduction of 6.7% over previous year in 2020
- It was COVID-19 that led to the decline as all solar industry companies are yet to recover completely from work stoppages of 2020
- Installations, sales and distribution as well as manufacturing segments took the hit
- Labor productivity enhanced during last year, and there was increased diversity of workforce
If US President Joe Biden led administration wants to achieve its 2035 clean energy target, the country would meet more than 900,000 solar workers to get there. In the annual edition of National Solar Jobs Census 2020, the analysts claim the US solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, reflecting an annual decline of 6.7% in the jobs. According to current assessments, the industry is on a trajectory to reach 400,000 solar jobs by 2030.
The 11th edition of the report was released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), and BW Research. It blamed the annual decline in solar jobs in the US mainly on COVID-19 as several companies are yet to fully recover from spring 2020 work stoppages.
In the installations space solar jobs dropped 4.2% compared to 2019, as pandemic lowered staffing levels in residential and commercial segments. On the other hand, manufacturing jobs were down 9.3% in 2020 as companies slowed production to accommodate increased spacing requirements, and some factories were shut down temporarily, and are yet to be up and running completely.
With decline of jobs in the above 2 segments, the report writers claim sales and distribution jobs dropped by 12.2% YoY. With drop in deployment and production, wholesale and retail trade and distribution segments were also impacted, leading to job decline.
The segment where there was maximum impact was residential solar and these jobs did not fully recover at the end of 2020, according to the report. However, the annual installations for solar increased to a record amount of 19.2 GW DC in 2020, led by utility scale deployments, and the report writers say this points to the improvement in labor productivity across market segments.
On a positive note, solar workforce grew more diverse in 2020 with the share of women and minority demographic groups up significantly since 2015. At the same time, the report claims the solar industry continues to outpace the rest of the economy in its employment of veterans whose number has grown to represent 8.7% of solar workforce, compared to 5.7% in the overall economy. Nonetheless, the authors believe there is still scope for improvement before the solar industry can match the diversity of the country.
Batting for friendly regulatory environment to further support solar jobs, SEIA’s President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper said, “We now have an opportunity to quadruple our workforce, adding diversity and supporting underserved communities by taking policy steps that incentivize solar and storage deployment and provide long-term certainty for solar businesses.”
The complete report can be downloaded for free from The Solar Foundation’s website.