The Department of Energy in the United States reported that 2016 was their best year for solar energy. Compared to the fossil fuel industry which has a 22% employment rate, the electric power industry was responsible for generating 43% of employment in the US. These robust numbers were excellent news for Americans, and it appeared that renewables and solar energy, were about to revolutionize the US energy sector to lead the way toward lower carbon emissions and clean energy.
However, that forecast was short-lived as the last two consecutive years proved to be the opposite. Solar energy jobs stagnated and instead of remaining steadfast or increase, it dipped. In 2017, the job loss in the clean energy sector was 10,000 which fell by another 8,000 jobs in 2018.
The extinguishing factor
The major contributing factor to these dramatic job losses was the implementation of Trump’s tariffs on solar panels. President Donald Trump started his trade war on China which was far-reaching to include solar panels.
All foreign-manufactured solar panels were given a 30% tariff, which had a tremendous debilitating effect on the domestic solar industry. The local US industry relied on cheap imports and the industry found it challenging.
While the Solar Foundation feels that 2019 could see an increase in job growth, they do admit that they could be wrong to expect the predicted 7% growth. Even though the environment remains a top priority across all States, consumers also generate their own power.
Grid defection, as it is called, is growing globally, especially, in Jamaica where the largest educational institution, University of the West Indies announced it is leaving the grid in favour of self-generated electricity. In Europe and the United States grid defection would not leave an impact on solar energy job losses as grid defection is far to uneconomical for most institutions and consumers. Something that is on the rise though, is partial grid defection, which is remaining on the grid combined with the installation of solar power storage.