Tariffs cause U.S. solar jobs to fall for second year in a row

Posted Feb 12, 2019 by Karen Graham
In 2018, the U.S. solar industry lost jobs for the second year in a row, according to numbers reported by the nonprofit Solar Foundation on Tuesday.
File Photo: Kyocera is one of the world s largest vertically-integrated producers and suppliers of s...
File Photo: Kyocera is one of the world's largest vertically-integrated producers and suppliers of solar energy panels. Photo shows a worker inspecting solar panels at a solar farm.
Carlos Barria / Reuters
According to the Solar Jobs Census, released annually by the non-profit research firm The Solar Foundation, the number of jobs in the solar industry fell by 8,000 to 242,000 in 2018, down 3.2 percent over 2017.
In 2017, the solar industry lost 10,000 jobs after the “boom year” of 2016. Since the foundation began keeping records on solar jobs in 2010, solar has seen an overall growth of 159 percent, adding nearly 150,000 jobs, according to the report.
The losses are attributed to changing trade and environmental policies, including the Trump Administration's Section 201 tariffs announced at the beginning of 2018 and state-level policy changes in some of the well-established markets.
As for the manufacturing end, there is little evidence of an increase in jobs. Even though manufacturing jobs account for a small slice of the overall industry, jobs fell by 8.0 percent in 2018.
To be more specific about the changes in some states' policies, the report noted that changes in incentives and rates for projects in the large markets led to job losses there. For example, in California, jobs were lost due to utility companies meeting the state's requirements for near-term renewable energy procurements.
However, long-term solar jobs growth remains positive. In the five-year period between 2013 and 2018, solar employment increased 70 percent overall, adding 100,000 jobs. By comparison, overall U.S. employment grew only 9.13 percent during that same period.
Solar is expected to retain the number-two position in new energy generation in 2019, but wind power is anticipated to retake the lead over natural gas as the leading source of new power. Solar power jobs are expected to rebound by 7.0 percent in the next year due to declines in solar panel prices.