Anti-solar Pundits and Politicians Are Wrong: The Solar Foundation’s Andrea Luecke Shows That Solar’s Growing Fast

If the latest job numbers from The Solar Foundation’s (TSF) National Solar Jobs Census 2011 are any indication, the bloviating by anti-solar jobs pundits and politicians is…well…really wrong. Unhinged from reality wrong.

Unlike self-appointed clean energy experts, such as Rush Limbaugh and the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore, TSF Executive Director Andrea Luecke is actually an expert on such things. At TSF (a Tigercomm client), she authors the Solar Census and leads work on two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants: Solar America Communities and Solar Instructor Training Network. And, she used to run the City of Milwaukee’s U.S. DOE Solar America Cities program.

Luecke stopped by our Communicating Energy lecture series to talk about the Census, a follow-up to the 2010 census. Together, the two years’ of data show meaningful trend lines that cannot be ignored.

Among them is the fact that the U.S. solar industry has grown 10 times faster than the national economy as a whole over the last 12 months, in the middle of the worst economy since the Great Depression. What about the fossil fuels that underwrite many anti-solar pundits and politicians? Those sectors saw a net job loss of two percent.

I guess the “hate renewable energy jobs” crowd that has been using Solyndra to run down other clean energy companies [see here and here have to re-cork the champagne. Consider other Census findings:

  • There are more than 100,000 solar jobs in all 50 states.
  • Among the top 10 states experiencing solar job growth, California had the highest at 25,575. Colorado, Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Texas, Oregon, New Jersey and Massachusetts make up the remainder of the top 10.
  • The growing list of jobs includes installation, manufacturing and also areas such as sales and distribution, which are actually the fastest growing (companies like Sungevity (a client of Tigercomm’s and a TSF board member), SolarCity, and SunRun that provide no-money down solar leases are great examples of this specific type of job growth).
  • Over the next 12 months, almost 50% of solar firms expect to add jobs.

So what accounts for the differences between the top 10 states and the remaining 40? No surprise there. As Luecke pointed out, the states with the most robust solar job industries and job growth rates had made the policy investment to get them. The top 10 states support increased production of energy from renewable sources (like solar carve-outs) and provide consumer incentives such as tax credits.

According to the Census, the industry could grow by up 24 percent and create 24,000 new jobs by August 2012, but Luecke said this projection can only happen with consistent policies in state markets.

With an unemployment rate of nine percent and most employers scaling back hiring, why is it that some in Congress have decided they should oppose a job-producing sector that is, we assert, the energy source with the least amount of government support? Wouldn’t it be better to actually support the growth of this industry, rather than try to hurt it?

Luecke had other interesting points, to make, including the fossil fuel industry’s fuzzy math on their job totals – more on that in future posts. But for now, take a look at the Solar Foundation to read the full Census report. It’s an eye opener.

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