US Solar Industry in 2020 saw Jobs Decline by 6.7% From 2019: Report

The US solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7% drop in jobs from 2019 due to pandemic restrictions and increased labor productivity

The U.S. solar industry employed 231,474 workers in 2020, a 6.7 percent drop from 2019 due to pandemic restrictions and increased labor productivity, according to the National Solar Jobs Census 2020 released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), The Solar Foundation, the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), and BW Research.

As per the census, the drop in jobs was largely split evenly among states as many companies have not yet reached pre-pandemic employment levels. Labor productivity also increased in all three market segments, up 19 percent in the residential sector, 2 percent in the non-residential sector and 32 percent in the utility-scale sector. 

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

The census further added that installation and construction-related employment continued to be the largest segment in the industry, representing 67 percent of all jobs. Of all installation jobs: 55 percent were residential; 18 percent were commercial; 8 percent community solar and 19 percent were utility-scale. Importantly, workers in manufacturing jobs represented 14 percent of all American industry employment, while sales and distribution and operations and maintenance represented 11 percent and 4 percent of all jobs, respectively. The ‘other’ category, comprised of workers in fields like finance, legal, research, advocacy and communications, makes up 4 percent of all US solar workers.

The new figures come as lawmakers debate infrastructure spending that could boost the solar workforce with hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next decade. SEIA analysis shows that the solar industry will need to reach more than 900,000 workers to reach President Biden’s 2035 clean energy target. SEIA is advocating for policies that will grow clean energy deployment and lay the groundwork to hire and train those workers.

“The solar industry continues to support hundreds of thousands of jobs across all 50 states, and even during a pandemic, our companies largely were able to keep workers on the job,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “We now have an opportunity to quadruple our workforce, adding diversity and supporting underserved communities by taking policy steps that incentivise solar and storage deployment and provide long-term certainty for solar businesses.”

Notably, the report shows that the US solar industry has a unionization rate of 10.3 percent, which is substantially more than previously estimated and comparable to the economy-wide rate.

The report also shows an increase in solar workforce diversity across nearly every demographic category, including workers identifying as “female,” which now represent 30 percent of the solar workforce.

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Ayush Verma

Ayush Verma

Ayush is a staff writer at saurenergy.com and writes on renewable energy with a special focus on solar and wind. Prior to this, as an engineering graduate trying to find his niche in the energy journalism segment, he worked as a correspondent for iamrenew.com.

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