November 2017 Director’s Note

For clean-energy jobs, sky’s the limit was the headline of an article the Wisconsin State Journal picked up from the Minneapolis Star Tribune on November 27. The article describes the burgeoning jobs market in solar and wind that supports salaries north of $50,000. Madison Area Technical College’s renewable energy certificate program is cited as having more solar employers coming to them than graduates.

Nationally, solar generation employs 374,000 and wind 101,700 reported US DOE at the beginning of this year. And, as examined in my September Director’s Update, 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 reports 2017 Solar Jobs Midwest. Given the rapid positive trajectory of this success story nationally and regionally, there are several impending federal government actions that could impact this progress to varying degrees. A few include the tax overhaul, repeal of the Clean Power Plan and the President’s impending decision on solar tariffs on imported solar.

The US House of Representatives version of the tax reform bill includes the elimination of the last two years of the wind energy investment tax credit along with a reduction to the production tax credit (PTC) from 2.3 cents to 1.5 cents, while leaving the solar ITC relatively untouched.  A lower corporate tax rate could impact business solar investment by decreasing the value of depreciating solar assets according to PV-magazine. The tax bill includes elimination of the $7,500 tax credit to consumers for electric vehicle purchase. US EPA is holding public hearings on repeal of the Clean Power Plan. And, the US International Trade Commission recommended tariffs, quotas and other restrictions on the import of cheaply priced solar panels and crystalline silicon PV solar cells from some countries in the Section 201 case on the grounds that they were causing serious injury to American industry. The President may or may not adopt those remedies in his decision due before January 12, 2018.

It is too early to tell how this combination of changes will impact the momentum of the clean energy industry and its notable contribution to the jobs market.

Sherrie Gruder