Industry job growth up in 2014 — report 

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, January 16, 2015

The solar energy industry added tens of thousands of domestic jobs last year and will soon support almost twice as many jobs as the coal industry, according to a new report by nonprofit advocacy group the Solar Foundation.

Solar companies added more than 31,000 jobs in 2014 and now employ about 173,000 workers nationwide, said the annual survey, released today.

The solar industry created almost 50 percent more jobs last year than the oil and gas industries, the National Solar Jobs Census found. Solar will also soon provide two “living wage” jobs for every worker in the coal industry, the report said.

“Solar’s explosive growth rate indicates solar energy will be a key part of our nation’s future energy mix,” said Amit Ronen, director of the George Washington University Solar Institute, which helped produce the report.

Since the annual survey was launched in 2010, solar companies have added almost 80,000 new jobs, an increase of 86 percent. The solar industry accounted for almost 2 percent of all new domestic jobs created last year alone, the report found.

The falling price of solar panels and installation costs, and a federal investment tax credit for solar established in 2008, has fueled the industry’s growth in recent years.

The industry is poised for another banner year in 2015, with solar companies expected to add up to 36,000 jobs, the report said.

Still, solar producers face some challenges in the coming years.

The 30 percent tax credit for commercial-scale solar projects that Congress created eight years ago is set to expire at the end of 2016. If lawmakers don’t extend the benefit, it will drop to 10 percent starting in 2017.

A long-term extension of the tax credit could be part of a broader tax reform deal being discussed in the House and Senate.

But an effort to strike a broad tax agreement last year — which would have included an extension of a temporary production tax credit for wind power — failed to materialize. It remains to be seen whether the Republican-controlled Congress and the Obama administration can reach a similar deal now, or whether it would include a tax credit for solar.

Another option would be a stand-alone solar tax credit bill, but the measure would likely face strong opposition from conservative Republicans and the electric utilities industry.

“The upcoming expiration of federal tax incentives and pushback from utilities losing market share may dramatically