Rapid, steady growth for the solar industry just saw its first decline in jobs in more than eight years.
According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, there was a 3.8 percent decrease in which the solar industry lost 9,800 jobs in 2017. The driving factors include “a slowdown of utility-scale and residential solar installations” and the “industry’s uncertainty” after Trump passed an executive order to impose a tariff on imported solar panels, according to EcoWatch.
“After six years of rapid and steady growth, the solar industry faced headwinds that led to a dip in employment in 2017, including a slowdown in the pace of new solar installations,” Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation, said.
Trump announced his decision to impose a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels last month after “two U.S. subsidiaries of foreign solar panel makers filed a rarely used kind of trade complaint with the International Trade Commission,” according to EcoWatch. He failed to take into consideration American jobs and clean, renewable energy and, instead, followed the lead of the independent U.S. agency and imposed duties on imported solar panels and the equipment used by the solar industry.
While solar jobs soared over the course of seven years from 93,000 in 2010 to 250,000 in 2017 – the Solar Foundation reported – “uncertainty over the outcome of the trade case had a likely impact on [recent] solar jobs growth,” Luecke said.
California and Massachusetts saw the largest solar industry unemployment drop, according to The Solar Foundation’s eight annual report. But as those two states saw a 14 percent and 21 percent decline respectively, 29 other states and the District of Columbia saw an increase in solar jobs.
While the industry was “restrained in recent months,” many solar companies don’t believe the trend will continue.
“While the industry faces challenges ahead, including higher costs as a result of the new tariffs, the demand for low-cost, reliable, and sustainable energy shows no sign of slowing down,” George Hershman, president of Swinerton Renewable Energy, said. “In the years ahead, we are confident that solar will continue to create jobs and grow local economies across the United States.”