September 2017 Director’s Note

The solar jobs success story in the US, as detailed in articles below, may soon change after a decision by the International Trade Commission (ITC) is announced Friday, September 22. The trade case will decide whether importing cheap solar panels from China has disadvantaged (harmed) US-based solar manufacturers. The case was filed by two domestic companies that declared bankruptcy. If the ITC finds harm, it will be up to President Trump to decide whether to impose tariffs on the import of foreign solar panels.

The price of solar energy in the US is strongly tied to the cost of solar panels, where the big boom in solar installations in the US in the last few years was in large part a result of a 70 percent drop in solar panel prices since 2010. Primarily, this was the result of cheap solar panels from Asia in particular. With the pending ITC decision, cheap solar panels have become scare as they’ve been bought up. . A decision to impose a solar tariff on imported panels would hurt the booming US solar industry that is largely comprised of installers, developers, racking manufacturers,  and distributors with only 2-4,000 jobs in panels manufacturing compared with 88,000 jobs in the solar supply chain (SEIA, 2018).

2017 Solar Jobs Midwest just released by Clean Energy Trust and Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), shows that clean energy jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric cars grew almost five times faster than other jobs in the Midwest 12-state region employing over 599,775 people. Last year the region added more than 30,000 jobs representing a 5.4% increase over 2015. These are American, blue-collar jobs with 7 of 10 in construction and manufacturing. In Wisconsin, data show more than 25,000 people are employed in this sector.  National and state policies and economic constructs impact these jobs. Recently both have been favorable supporting the growing clean energy industry. Wisconsin has benefited as well. We will see whether interventions will support derail this positive trajectory.

Sherrie Gruder