U.S. Solar Jobs Bounce Back Despite Trump Tariffs
Solar energy jobs in many parts of the United States have been bouncing back over the last year, with falling costs and a rush of new installations before federal tax credits expire offsetting the past impact of Donald Trump’s punishing tariffs on imported panels, according to new data from The Solar Foundation.
“U.S. jobs in the industry increased 2.3% to almost 250,000 last year, marking the first annual increase since 2016—the year before the threat of new tariffs emerged,” Bloomberg reports. And “the uptick won’t be a blip: the non-profit organization projects a 7.8% surge in jobs in 2020.”
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Even though renewable energy often beats fossil fuels on price, “the growth of America’s solar industry still depends on policy,” the news agency writes, citing Solar Foundation Senior Director Ed Gilliland. “The threat of tariffs had initially prompted developers to cancel or ice projects, slowing installations.”
But “while the industry was plagued by uncertainty in 2017 and took the brunt of the hit from tariffs in 2018, that eased last year.”
The Star Tribune in Minneapolis notes the resurgence has been uneven. “According to the report, 31 states saw solar-job growth in 2019, including Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas. The solar energy job market increased 44% between 2014 and 2019, a gain of 76,000 jobs, about five times faster than job growth overall.”
Minnesota saw solar employment fall 6%, to 4,335, after surging in recent years. It slipped from 15th to 17th spot in the national standings. But the state has plans to turn things around, “particularly through expanding solar gardens on acres of vacant land, including farms, and plans to increase its electrical energy output from 2% of the Minnesota mix to 10% over the next decade,” the paper notes, citing solar engineer John Dunlop.
“Demand for clean, renewable electricity will increase dramatically to meet the needs of the electric power, transportation, and new buildings sectors,” Dunlop told the Star Tribune. “The job growth reflected in the [Solar Foundation report] indicates the economic benefits…as we reduce our carbon emissions.”