August 2019 Director’s Note

Labor Day is a good time to recognize the near quarter million jobs in the solar industry. In support of those jobs, a five-year extension of the 30 percent Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was introduced at the end of July by both parties as the Renewable Energy Extension Act (HR 3961) and (S 2289).

First enacted in 2006 and extended in 2015, there has been 52 percent average annual solar growth since the ITC.  According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), this incentive has fueled $140 billion in investment with a 10,000 percent increase in solar capacity that resulted in almost 250,000 new jobs. Without the extension, the credit for residential solar will decrease in 2020 and 2021 and zero out in 2022, while the commercial incentive would drop to 10 percent in 2022.

Another challenge to the growth in solar jobs are the President’s trade tariffs. They accounted for a loss of 10,000 solar jobs in 2017 and another 8,000 in 2018, as reported in the National Solar Jobs Census.   In addition to solar panels, tariffs effect inverters, AC modules, steal, and non-lithium ion batteries. Yet, in Q1 of 2019, the biggest gain in solar capacity was realized even with the solar tariffs, according to the  Solar Market Insight Reports by SEIA and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables. This was due largely to utility scale installations.

Now that Wisconsin’s Governor has set in place a framework to move the state to carbon-free electricity and grow local jobs, federal incentives and trade policy can help support that growth in the clean energy economy or not. Wisconsin utilities are poised to build more than 450 MW of utility-scale solar in the next 2 years that will bring new jobs to the state. It is time to accelerate growth of a Wisconsin trained clean energy workforce.

Sherrie Gruder