To Meet Biden's Clean Energy Target, Solar Jobs Must Grow Fourfold

President Joe Biden, as part of his infrastructure proposal, reiterated a campaign goal of reaching 100% carbon-free or clean electricity throughout the U.S. by 2035. Establishing a workforce will be a necessary step in reaching those goals, and according to a new report, more than 900,000 workers will be needed in the solar industry alone to support the 2035 target — four times higher than where the workforce stands today.

“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,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a release about the report.

[These States Are Where the Clean Energy Jobs Are]

The estimate comes after a year of job loss within the solar industry, attributed to coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns that halted both residential and commercial solar installation projects, according to the National Solar Jobs Census co-released Thursday by the SEIA, The Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council and BW Research. In 2020, more than 231,000 workers were employed in the solar industry, down 6.7% from 2019 to the lowest level since 2015, according to the report. The declines have been seen across all sectors, including installation and developers, manufacturing, sales and distribution, operations and maintenance, and other, which includes solar workers in fields such as finance and advocacy.

Despite the drop in employment, the amount of solar installations added in 2020 reached a record high. And although the demand for solar has generally recovered, the report says, employment has not reached pre-pandemic levels across all sectors of the solar industry. Installation and construction-based employment remains the largest segment of the industry, making up 67% of solar jobs, followed by 14% in manufacturing and 11% in sales and distribution.

All but six states saw declines in solar industry employment in 2020 — the most broad labor reduction in the industry on record, according to the report. Some of the most populous states — such as California, Florida, Texas, New York and Massachusetts — had the most solar employment in 2020, although they all saw declines in solar employment ranging from 1.7% to 8.7%. Some of those states have also seen some of the highest overall solar employment growth since 2015: Florida saw a 71% increase, Texas’ was up 44% and New York employment grew 24%, according to the report.

Despite the declines in solar employment, the industry improved its diversity in 2020. Women in solar now make up 30% of the workforce, growing by 39% since 2015. Hispanic or Latino workers saw a 92% increase in employment since 2015, Asian workers saw an 18% increase, and Black or African American workers increased by 73% over the same period.

The report uses data from the 2021 U.S. Energy and Employment Report from the BW Research Partnership, Energy Futures Initiative and the National Association of State Energy Officials, and defines solar workers as those who spend a majority of their time on solar-related work.

Here are the states with the the most solar jobs per capita:

State

Solar Jobs Per Capita

Utah

1:473

Nevada

1:503

California

1:576

Vermont

1:615

Hawaii

1:617

Massachusetts

1:741

Colorado

1:854

Arizona

1:974

Rhode Island

1:1,087

New Mexico

1:1,128

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To Meet Biden’s Clean Energy Target, Solar Jobs Must Grow Fourfold originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 05/06/21: This article has been updated to reflect that the report was co-released by SEIA, The Solar Foundation, Interstate Renewable Energy Council and BW Research.

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