Making Sense of the Solar Job Report

IRENA is out with its annual jobs report – and the news is good, especially for solar.

IRENA is the International Renewable Energy Agency, an United Arab Emirates-based intergovernmental organization committed to international renewable energy cooperation and supporting countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future. It is one of the few groups to track the growth of the entire renewables landscape from bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower to ocean, solar and wind.

According to IRENA’s report for 2017, the renewable energy jobs market increased by 5.3 percent for the year, adding 500,000 jobs to the world economies. Not surprisingly, most of these half-million new jobs were in photovoltaic (PV) solar – the process of converting light (photons) into electricity (voltage) directly – and located in China.

As a point of comparison, CSDR Solar is committed to the next generation of solar: HCPV, or high-concentrating PV solar, which uses lenses, curved mirrors or other optics to concentrate a significantly larger amount of sunlight onto a smaller area of solar photovoltaic social cells.

The solar jobs report was mixed for the U.S., which is still being impacted by the expiration of renewable energy development tax incentives at the end of 2016. Due to the inevitable lull in production that followed, and the continued mixed political climate surrounding the renewables-vs.-carbon-fuels debate, there were almost 10,000 fewer solar jobs in the U.S. in 2017, with much of this decline coming in solar utility installation.

Tariffs and other protectionist measures adopted by the Trump Administration are expected to result in anther 23,000 renewable energy job losses this year according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

But job numbers alone can’t tell the whole story. Since the U.S. imports almost 95 percent of its solar panels, manufacturing makes up a much smaller percentage of the total PV solar jobs segment. As the U.S. inevitably transitions to HCPV, led by large-scale technological advances and contracts at CSDR Solar, a committed made-in-America producer, the domestic manufacturing jobs are expected to return.

And other factors including the growth of the battery storage sector, carbon-based fuel price fluctuation and a widely anticipated lower levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), also known as levelized energy cost (LEC), will result in even more American jobs.

Better technology results in more local jobs that can create more renewable energy for a cleaner world. 

That’s the best news of all.

Leslie Gomez