The U.S. solar industry will need to nearly quadruple its workforce by 2035 in order to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of a carbon-free electricity industry, after the solar workforce suffered a 6.7% drop in employees in 2020 fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a solar industry review released Thursday by the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The SEIA concluded the Covid-19 pandemic “was largely responsible for the job decline.”
However, the industry saw a 32% increase in labor productivity for utility-scale solar units, or solar power plants.
With just over 231,000 workers in 2020, the solar industry is on track to only reach 400,000 solar jobs in 2030, but estimates it will need to “exceed 900,000 workers by 2035” to reach Biden’s goal.
And the solar energy industry trailed natural gas pre-pandemic, too:The Energy Futures Initiative and the National Association of State Energy Officials reported Natural gas employment grew 8% in 2019, while solar grew 2.3% and wind grew 3.2%.
The SEIA report shows solar industry employment decreased in 44 states in 2020, but overall 42 states increased “solar employment since 2015.”
Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, which sets the 2035 carbon-free electricity goal, has not been passed by either the House or the Senate.
Biden committed last month to halving U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and creating a “carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.” But the country is still far off from meeting those targets. In 2020, 60% of the U.S.’s electricity came from fossil fuels—even though America has significantly reduced its coal usage since 2015. Biden has messaged his clean energy agenda through a jobs plan. Some experts estimate nearly 1 million jobs could be created in renewable energy industries if the American Jobs Plan passed, but the bill currently doesn’t have enough support to get through Congress. Democratic senators have theorized passing the bill through reconciliation—a way to pass spending bills in the Senate with a simple majority vote—but Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), a conservative Democrat who holds sway in his party’s slim majority, has expressed concerns with the bill. Manchin said he’s “uncomfortable” with how much money Biden’s plans cost, and Manchin’s home state of West Virginia is the second-largest coal producer in the country.
38%. That’s how much power in the U.S. came from wind, solar and nuclear power in 2019.
“The American Jobs Plan will put engineers and construction workers to work building more energy efficient buildings and homes. Electrical workers, I.B.E.W. members, installing 500,000 charging stations along our highways so we can own the electric car market,” Biden said during his address to a joint session of Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to “fight” the American Jobs Plan “every step of the way” because he believes it’s the “wrong prescription for America.” McConnell and some Senate Republicans believe Biden should take his clean energy goals out of the infrastructure package and instead focus the legislation on rebuilding roads and bridges.