Last year, $40.5 billion in utility-scale, industrial, and residential solar projects of all sizes were completed in the United States. That’s one-third as much as China invested in solar. As of the end of 2017, there were some 250,000 people employed in the U.S. solar industry. That workforce has grown by 168 percent in the past seven years. Betsy Lillian took note:
“The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift,” says Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy; they deliver more jobs, better-quality jobs and better-paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”
There’ll be fewer of those benefits this year in the United States. Among the projects Groom says the tariff is delaying and potentially killing permanently:
Cypress Creek Renewables LLC is freezing or canceling $1.5 billion in projects, 20 percent of its total, mostly in the Carolinas, Texas, and Colorado. That covers some 150 projects that could have employed 3,000 people.
Southern Current is delaying or ending $1 billion in solar projects, mainly in South Carolina
McCarthy Building Companies was planning to put 1,200 people to work on solar projects in 2018, but the tariff has spurred it to reduce that by half.
Pine Gate will only finish half of the 400 megawatts of solar installations it had projected and has decided not to hire 30 employees it previously was planning to add.
Some few companies have been helped by the tariff and are moving ahead with previously planned projects. For example, SunPower Corp bought SolarWorld’s Oregon factory, saving 280 jobs in the process. It also plans to hire additional employees for the Oregon operation. But, Groom reports, Sunpower will lay off 250 people in other parts of the company because of the tariffs.
In the short term, the idea that the tariff is a good way to boost solar power is harmful nonsense, just as critics noted when it was announced. As for the long-term, we’ll have to wait and see.
If the Trump regime were truly intent on giving renewables the added momentum needed to quickly wean us off fossil fuels, there are plenty of means available. But, of course, keeping coal, oil, and natural gas in the ground isn’t part of the White House agenda. Quite the contrary.
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