COVID19’s Solar Casualties

The skies and air may be cleaner than recent memory. But the coronavirus is still inflicting heavy clean energy casualties during a climate crisis that has yet to be meaningfully addressed.

After losing 38% of the solar workforce, warns a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, each state in America is on track for job losses in the industry during the pandemic. Worse, job losses in the solar industry, an invaluable leader in the decarbonization movement, are “outpacing” job loss in the overall economy.

That’s an unacceptable if predictable blowback, given that America’s current political administration is much more concerned with preserving lethally obsolete industries like oil and gas during the pandemic, in the form of financial lifelines to extinction-level business as usual. Despite efforts from companies like Sunpower and more to offer zero-down, COVID-conscious solar installations, the industry is in deep peril until imbalances and injustices in the global energy system are corrected.

SEIA argues that the only way to properly address them is “swift” and “strategic” government and congressional intervention, although it didn’t further specify what that could be. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out: Everything from ending the unsustainable annual subsidies for oil and gas, to transitioning workers from oil and gas to solar and wind, and much more, are on the table.

Years ago, the renewable energy industry employed more workers than Hollywood in California alone. That’s a minor achievement compared to what is needed to support the much-needed industry during COVID19, as well as the climate crisis that set the stage for the zoonotic pandemic.


WASHINGTON, D.C. – New analysis shows that the U.S. solar industry will employ 114,000 fewer workers by June 2020, compared with previous forecasts that projected the industry would employ 302,000 Americans over the same time period. With an expected workforce of 188,000 people, this job loss will take the industry back to 2014 levels as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Last week the U.S. government reported another 3 million unemployment claims. The solar industry is now losing jobs at a faster rate than the U.S. economy.

The analysis from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) represents a 38% drop in solar jobs compared to previous estimates for June. The drop coincides with a 37% decrease in expected Q2 solar installations from pre-COVID forecasts, as the United States is only on track to install 3 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in Q2 2020.

“Thousands of solar workers are being laid off each week, but with swift action from Congress, we know that solar can be a crucial part of our economic recovery,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. “With a few simple changes, Congress has an opportunity to save solar jobs, rebuild our economy and advance clean energy even as policy makers address this very real public health crisis.”

All 50 states show solar jobs losses, with 36 states suffering job losses above 30%. Seven states and Washington, DC— including large solar states like New York and New Jersey— have seen solar job losses exceed 60%.

On May 13, a BW Research Partnership report based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed 95,600 renewable energy jobs and a total of 594,300 clean energy jobs had already been lost in March and April. SEIA’s analysis shows that vast majority of renewable energy job losses come from the solar energy industry.

The 37% decrease in new installed solar capacity is equivalent to the electricity needed to power 288,000 homes and $3.2 billion in economic investment.

Strategic government action can prevent further solar job losses, revive many of the already lost jobs, and help reinfuse billions of dollars into the U.S. economy.

View the new resources and interactive charts.

Key Facts and Figures

The U.S. solar industry had to cut 65,000 jobs since the end of February as a direct result of COVID-19, and there will be 114,000 fewer solar jobs in June than there would be without the pandemic.

22 states will employ at least 1,000 fewer solar workers in June as a result of COVID-19, while 34 states and Puerto Rico will employ 500 less workers.

Solar job losses due to COVID-10 will negate 5 years of solar industry growth, pushing the workforce back to a level not seen since 2014.

Deployment losses in Q2 alone will exceed 1,700 megawatts, which is enough to power 288,000 homes and $3.2 billion in economic investment.

The solar industry is losing jobs at a faster rate than the overall U.S. economy.


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