The US solar workforce must quadruple to meet Biden’s clean energy goals

The US solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7% decline from 2019 due to pandemic constraints and increased labor productivity, according to the “National Solar Jobs Census 2020” released by the National Solar Jobs Census on Thursday. Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and BW research.

The decline in the number of jobs has been largely evenly distributed across the states, as many companies have not yet achieved pre-pandemic employment. Labor productivity also increased in all three market segments, with 19% in the residential sector, 2% in non-residential construction and 32% in the non-residential scale.

Less labor-intensive installations on a utility scale contributed to a record amount of solar capacity added in 2020. However, the pandemic took its toll on residential jobs in the summer, and those jobs had not fully recovered by the end of the year.

Installation and construction-related employment remained the largest segment in the industry, accounting for 67% of all jobs. Of all installation work: 55% was residential; 18% were commercial; 8% solar in the community and 19% were on a utility scale. Industry workers accounted for 14% of all US manufacturing employment, while sales and distribution and operation and maintenance accounted for 11% and 4% of all jobs, respectively. The “other” category, made up of employees in areas such as finance, legal, research, advocacy, and communications, makes up 4% of all solar workers in the US.

The new figures come as lawmakers debate infrastructure spending that could create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the solar workforce over the next decade. SEIA analysis shows that the solar industry will need to reach more than 900,000 employees to reach President Joe Biden’s 2035 clean energy target. SEIA advocates a policy that increases the use of clean energy and lays the foundation for hiring and training those employees.

“The solar industry continues to support hundreds of thousands of jobs in all 50 states, and even during a pandemic, our businesses were largely able to keep workers in employment,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA president and CEO. “We now have the opportunity to quadruple our workforce, add diversity and support disadvantaged communities by taking policy steps that drive solar deployment and storage and provide long-term security for solar companies.”

The report shows that the US solar industry has a union rate of 10.3%, which is significantly more than previously estimated and comparable to the rate for the entire economy.

“Even as the pandemic presented unprecedented challenges, the 11th Annual Solar Jobs Census shows that the solar industry continues to create hundreds of thousands of high-quality jobs for men and women of all educational levels and backgrounds,” said Larry Sherwood, administrator of The Solar Foundation. and Chairman and CEO of IREC. “Since 2010, The Solar Foundation has been following the rapid expansion of the solar industry and workforce, and we look forward to supporting even more dramatic growth over the next decade.”

The report also shows an increase in solar workforce diversity in nearly every demographic, including workers who identify as “female,” who now represent 30% of the solar workforce. The representation among women and minority demographics has improved since 2015, including a 39% increase for women, 92% for Hispanic or Latino workers, 18% for Asian-American and Pacific Islander workers, and a 73% increase for black or African Americans. workers.

The solar industry also continues to outpace the rest of the economy in terms of the employment of veterans, who represent 8.7% of the solar workforce, compared to 5.7% in the total economy.

Solar occupations earn wages that are comparable to or better than those of the same occupational types in other industries. For example, wages for solar workers remain higher than the industry average when wages are compared for positions such as construction managers, electricians and installers.

The Solar Jobs Census counts those employees who spend most of their time on solar-related work.

News item from SEIA

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