Job losses reflect how changing trade and environmental policies can alter the trajectory of an industry that was one of the fastest growing energy segments.
The number of workers in the solar energy sector has decreased from 8,000 to 242,000 in 2018, according to the Solar Jobs Census, published annually by the non-profit research company The Solar Foundation, after the loss of 10,000 jobs in 2017. However, jobs are expected to increase year, says the report.
In early 2018, President Donald Trump imposed 30% tariffs on imported solar panels to boost domestic manufacturing, paving the way for what has become a major trade war. This decision led developers to cancel or freeze billions of dollars of investment in large-scale projects because most solar panels used in the United States are manufactured abroad.
On the manufacturing side, there is little evidence so far of a boost. Jobs in the manufacturing sector of the industry – a small part of the global industry – fell by 8% in 2018, according to the report.
US policies are also key to solar growth, and changes to incentives and project tariffs in major markets have led to job losses in the country, according to the report.
In California, utility purchases slowed as power companies met short-term renewable energy supply requirements. The state's commercial market has also slowed due to the adoption of less favorable solar tariffs. In Massachusetts, the commercial market stagnated before the introduction of a new incentive system at the end of the year.
The Solar Foundation said it expects a 7% job recovery next year, due to the recent decline in price of solar panels that has made them more affordable.
Last year, China slashed subsidies for solar installations, triggering a flood of low-cost panels made in China in the international market and pushing prices below what they were before Imposition of tariffs.
The facility will receive the biggest shock, more than 9 percent, the report said, while the manufacturing industry would increase by 4 percent, the report said.
JinkoSolar Holding Co Ltd, Hanwha Q CELLS and others open factories in the United States to avoid US tariffs.
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