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SEIA's 10-Year Roadmap for U.S. Solar: What You Need to Know

Posted by Gwen Brown on Sep 29, 2019 3:42:23 PM

This past week, the Aurora team had the pleasure of exhibiting at Solar Power International (SPI), which brought more than 19,000 professionals to Salt Lake City—making it the largest energy event in North America! SPI provided a powerful platform for companies (including Aurora) to showcase their latest innovations and for the industry to collaborate on important issues and unite around a common vision.

Beyond individual company achievements, perhaps the most pivotal outcome of SPI 2019 was the announcement of a new 10-year strategic plan from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Although the solar industry has grown by leaps and bounds, achieving exponential growth in installed capacity and formidable reductions in costs, today solar energy still makes up only 2.4% of the total U.S. electricity mix. Looking toward the future, SEIA has set the ambitious goal of making solar account for 20 percent of all U.S. electricity generation by 2030. Ambitious, yet achievable.

SEIA’s new roadmap—The Solar+ Decade: Roadmap for Building the Solar+ Economy—lays out an action plan for how this target can be reached, highlighting four pillars for achieving the radical market transformation that will be necessary. In today’s article, we dig into the action plan SEIA has articulated for the U.S. solar industry to reach 20% of electricity by 2030, what will be involved, and what all of this means for your solar company.

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Why Does This Matter?

To start, what are the implications of realizing this 10-year industry strategy? As SEIA President and CEO Abby Hopper explains, “If we achieve 20 percent solar by 2030, the potential payoff to our economy would be enormous.”

“Picture this: solar could add more than $345 billion to the U.S. economy over the next ten years, reaching $53 billion annually. The solar workforce would grow to 600,000 professionals and Americans would enjoy greater energy choice, lower utility bills, and cleaner air. Moreover, our success could prove that climate solutions don’t hurt the economy, but instead, are some of the strongest economic growth engines we’ve seen in decades.”

Clearly, achieving this target would transform not only our industry, but would bring about considerable positive benefits for the U.S. economy and the world. Yet there are many challenges that will need to be overcome to make this vision a reality.

As SEIA worked to develop its plan for achieving these goals, Hopper testified before the House Science Committee Subcommittee on Energy. She notes that she “felt it was important to share industry pain points with the subcommittee—like permitting and interconnection, workforce diversity and preparedness, grid modernization and resilience, advanced manufacturing, and energy storage integration—and begin advocating for a stronger solar future today.” Addressing these pain points will be critical to success.

Annual solar installations required (GWh) for solar energy to reach 20% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030Annual solar installations required (GWh) for solar energy to reach 20% of U.S. electricity generation by 2030, according to SEIA’s 10-year roadmap, The Solar+ Decade: Roadmap for Building the Solar+ Economy.

How Will Solar Reach 20% of Generation by 2030?

SEIA’s roadmap is built around four pillars. These are: aggressive collaboration, capitalizing on market accelerators, using market levers and policy drivers, and responsibly managing our growth as an industry. Let’s take a closer look at each.

1. Collaborating Aggressively

SEIA emphasizes that for solar to supply 20% of our country’s electricity, our work can’t be done alone. That means within our industry diverse sectors need to work together, and we must be united in our messages to build public and political support.

It also means reaching beyond the boundaries of our own industry to collaborate with other stakeholders and renewable energy sectors. That includes working “closely with the wind and storage industries and related technologies to create a comprehensive renewable mindset in this country,” as well as other stakeholders like utilities, climate advocates, corporate buyers, and federal and governments.

(See page 9 of the full roadmap for specific action items SEIA has identified related to collaboration.)

2. Capturing the Benefits of Market Accelerators

SEIA identifies “a number of market accelerators that can increase solar energy adoption.” Specifically, it identifies energy storage, carbon reduction goals, and electrification as key levers for enabling this level of solar growth. Storage will make it easier to incorporate high levels of solar energy on the grid, help customers manage moves to time of use rates, and the two technologies create new business opportunities for each other.

Climate policies, and related moves to electrify much of our energy use—from homes to vehicles, will create significant market opportunities for solar. We are already seeing the benefits of these kinds of policies at the state and local level, such as California’s (and other state and local) commitment to sourcing 100% of electricity from clean energy, and its mandate of solar on all new homes starting next year.

(See pages 10-12 of the full roadmap for specific action items SEIA has identified related to these market accelerators.)

To learn more about what CA's 100% clean energy target means for solar,  watch our GTM webinar with the California Energy Commission and  the California Solar and Storage Association!

3. Using Market Levers and Policy Drivers

A third and critical pillar of SEIA’s roadmap is the use of market levers and policy drivers. As the roadmap asserts, “The 20% goal is not achievable under business-as-usual growth projections. To put the industry on a path to deeper levels of penetration, we must drive down costs, develop new financing mechanisms, and build stronger federal and state policy.”

The roadmap identifies several specific areas of focus including climate policy, extension of the Investment Tax Credit—which is slated to begin stepping down at the end of this year, state net energy metering policies, building codes, renewable portfolio standards, regional energy market rules, and access to financing. It also highlights opportunities to further reduce costs, such as by streamlining permitting costs.

(See pages 14, 15, 17, and 19 of the full roadmap for specific action items SEIA has identified related to these market levers and policy drivers.)

Estimated U.S. Solar Generation (GWh) Across Policy Scenarios & Targets, according to SEIA’s 10-year roadmap, The Solar+ Decade: Roadmap for Building the Solar+ Economy.

4. Managing Growth

The final pillar of this 10-year roadmap deals with how the industry will manage this unprecedented level of growth in a responsible way. “Whether it is gaining a social license to operate by being good stewards of the land, proactively addressing recycling, modernizing the grid to allow for more solar deployment, protecting customers, or ensuring a diverse customer base and workforce, we have to show that we are growing in a responsible way,” asserts SEIA.

In addition to environmental responsibility on issues like recycling and land use, a key focus in this area is ensuring that the diversity of the industry reflects the diversity of the nation - both in terms of our employees and customers, as Hopper and other panelists discussed in the Opening Session at SPI.

(See pages 20 - 27 of the full roadmap for specific action items SEIA has identified related to managing growth.)

Estimates for solar industry workforce by year on its path to 20% by 2030, according to SEIA’s 10-year roadmap, The Solar+ Decade: Roadmap for Building the Solar+ Economy.

What Does This Mean for You?

This roadmap gives members of the U.S. solar industry transparency into the priorities of its national trade association, including what SEIA will be advocating for on your behalf with federal and local governments. The report includes specific action items and priorities for the short-term, mid-term, and long-term.

In the short-term, over the next two years, priorities include the extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). At SPI, SEIA presented estimates that a 10-year extension of the ITC would lead to $87 billion in new private sector investment and an additional 113,000 American jobs over baseline estimates by 2030. Other priorities include reducing trade barriers, increasing state-level coordination, and strengthening its technical capacity to engage in regulatory proceedings.

Over the next three to five years, goals include achieving adoption of its SolarAPP program to reduce permitting complexity, building a national PV Recycling Network, increasing diversity in the industry, and positioning solar + storage as the best, cheapest and most capable generation resource in state and utility resource planning (among other goals). SEIA sets other ambitious goals for the final five years of this ten-year plan.

We encourage you to check out the full roadmap for all of the details and think about how you can get involved! As Abby Hopper explains, “If the solar industry fails to meet our ambitious goals for U.S. electricity generation, it will be because we fail in the next couple of years lay the necessary groundwork. While it won’t be easy, it’s up to us to shape our future and create a new story for solar in the United States.”

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Topics: solar industry, Industry Events, Solar Jobs

Key Solar Industry Trends From The 2018 Solar Jobs Census

Posted by Gwen Brown on Feb 15, 2019 12:44:11 PM

The 2018 National Solar Jobs Census, released this week, reaffirms an oft-cited benefit of the solar industry—that solar is a major job creator. As of late 2018 are 242,343 solar workers in the U.S., meaning that the solar industry employs more people than any other energy sector other than oil and gas. Between 2013 and 2018, solar jobs grew at a rate six times faster than the overall U.S. economy.

The results weren’t all rosy, however. For the second year in a row, total employment in the solar industry has declined slightly, after seven years of growth. The Solar Census reports that uncertainty over whether the federal government would impose tariffs on imported solar components (which led to delays of many projects) contributed to the decline, as did policy changes and economic challenges in some established state solar markets.

Despite these recent challenges, more than half of states in the U.S. added solar jobs. Additionally, the report paints a bright picture for the future of the solar industry, with survey respondents reporting an expected increase in hiring in the coming year. It also overs valuable insights on hiring trends in the solar industry, industry demographics, and more.

The National Solar Jobs Census is an analysis of employment in the U.S. conducted annually by The Solar Foundation. It is the most rigorous and comprehensive review of its kind, based on an extensive survey of solar industry employers. We delve into its 2018 findings and what you need to know about the current state of the solar market in the U.S.!

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Solar Jobs 2018: The Big Picture

In 2018, solar employment declined by 3.2%—or 8000 jobs across the country. In addition to uncertainty about tariffs resulting in postponed projects, contraction in some states with historically strong solar markets contributed to the decline.

It’s important to keep these losses in context, however. Since the first Solar Jobs Census in 2010, the solar workforce has added nearly 150,000 jobs—growth of 159% percent. And between 2013 and 2018 solar employment increased 70% (100,000 jobs), compared to 9.13% job growth in the U.S. economy overall.

Additionally, the solar industry outlook for 2019 and beyond is positive. Based on the survey results, solar jobs are expected to increase by 7 percent in 2019, bringing the total to 259,400 jobs.

Installed PV costs by solar industry sector compared to the number of U.S. solar jobs each year. Installed PV costs by solar industry sector (residential, commercial, and utility-scale) compared to annual solar industry employment numbers. Source: 2018 National Solar Jobs Census.

Where Solar Jobs Were Gained and Lost

States with the largest job reductions included California (-9,576 jobs), Massachusetts (-1,320), North Carolina (-903), Arizona (-857), Maryland (-808), New Jersey (-696), Georgia (-614), and Hawaii (-595).

In California, which still remains the state with the most solar jobs despite significant declines, there were a number of factors at play. The Census cites reduced pressure on utilities to meet their clean energy goals because they have already made significant progress, as well as uncertainty over rate structures for non-residential solar customers.

California did implement a number of notable pro-solar policies in 2018, such as mandating solar on all new homes and committing to 100% renewable energy. While 2018 was too early to see the impact of these policies, they bode well for stronger growth in the coming years.

In Massachusetts, policy uncertainty prior to the release of the state’s new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, a successor to its SREC program, contributed to the decline. However, once the new program was launched in September of 2018, there was a rush of new applications—a positive sign

On the bright side, 29 states saw solar job growth. Among the states that experienced the most solar job growth are Florida (+1,769 jobs), Illinois (+1,308), Texas (+739), New York (+718), Ohio (+644), and Washington (+612). The report highlights contributing factors in different states such as Illinois’ Future Energy Jobs Act, which includes an Adjustable Block Program to support distributed energy systems and community solar projects, and Nevada’s reinstated net metering policy in 2017. In states like Texas without relevant policy changes falling cost of installations were a contributor to solar industry growth.

Increase or decrease in solar jobs in 2018 by state. Source: 2018 National Solar Jobs Census. Increase or decrease in solar jobs in 2018 by state. Source: 2018 National Solar Jobs Census

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Other Notable Findings

The 2018 Solar Jobs Census also provides valuable insights on how solar jobs are distributed across different sectors and what the demographics of the solar industry are. It also provides insights on the hiring experiences of companies—such as how difficult it is to fill positions and what qualifications employers are looking for.

What Sectors are Solar Jobs In?

The solar installation and project development sector employs two-thirds of solar workers, with 155,000 solar jobs. Of these, 56% percent (87,000) focus on residential solar compared to commercial and other non-residential solar (including community solar), which employs 30% (46,000). The remaining 14% of jobs are in the utility-scale sector (87,000).

Manufacturing employs 14% of solar industry workers, while operations and maintenance (O&M) employs about 5%. The “other” category—including engineering, legal, and financing companies—also employs about 5% of solar industry professionals.

 

Percentage of solar jobs by industry sector.  by Source: 2018 National Solar Jobs Census.Percentage of solar jobs by industry sector.  by Source: 2018 National Solar Jobs Census.

What Are the Demographics of the Solar industry

The Solar Foundation also built upon its past efforts to highlight diversity needs in solar with an update on industry demographics. In 2018, they report, the solar industry was more diverse than other comparable industries, but still not representative of the overall population.

Women represented 26.3% of solar industry workers. Latino or Hispanic workers represented 16.9%, Asian workers comprised 8.5%, and black or African American workers comprised 7.6%. Veterans represented 7.8% of industry workers, a decline from 8.6% in 2017.

Solar Hiring Trends

In 2017, many solar employers reported difficulty finding qualified workers and in 2018 that was even more of a challenge. Twenty-six percent of companies reported that it is “very difficult” to fill open positions with qualified employees, an increase of 44% from 2018. The greatest hiring difficulty was in the installation and project development sector.

In terms of what employers are looking for in job candidates, experience was the most common requirement, reported by 60% of companies (up from 55% in 2017). The Census also reports that solar industry wages are competitive with similar industries, with a median wage of $18.12.

Reasons for hiring difficulty reported by solar industry employers. Source: 2018 National Solar Jobs Census.
Reasons for hiring difficulty reported by solar industry employers. Source: 2018 National Solar Jobs Census.

The solar industry is playing an important role in the U.S. economy, delivering new well-paying job opportunities while helping to tackle the critical impacts of climate change. With positive projections for 2019 industry growth, we look forward to the industry getting back on track and installing even more clean energy. The 2018 Solar Jobs Census is chock full of many more insights than we could cover in the blog post—download the full report here to learn more!

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Topics: Solar Jobs

Find the Best Candidates for Solar Jobs with This New Tool

Posted by Gwen Brown on Jan 25, 2019 11:17:50 AM

If your solar company is like many in the U.S., finding the right candidates to fill job openings can sometimes be a challenge. In fact, according to the Solar Training Network 84% of installers have difficulty finding qualified applicants, with 26% finding it “very difficult.”

But what if you could connect with solar job candidates that you might not otherwise reach, more easily compare candidates, and help increase diversity at your company at the same time? The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) recently joined forces with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Development Action Coalition (HBCU CDAC) to highlight a solar hiring tool that can do just that!

The HBCU Talent Exchange, developed by the HBCU CDAC–which SEIA began partnering with in 2018–is a cutting edge tool that helps employers quickly connect with qualified solar job candidates while reducing hiring bias.

Finding the right employees is one way to improve your solar business, having  the right design tools is another. Sign up for a free demo to see how Aurora  can help you work smarter.

Background

The HBCU CDAC is a national nonprofit founded in 2010 as a resource for historically black colleges and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and the community economic development industry to leverage their resources and strengthen their surrounding communities. Some of its objectives include creating economic opportunity, building healthy and sustainable communities, and increasing participation in STEM fields by historically underrepresented individuals.

In 2018, SEIA launched a partnership with the HBCU CDAC with the goal of creating opportunities to increase participation of HBCU students in the solar industry workforce by exploring opportunities to connect qualified students with open solar jobs at SEIA member companies.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this week, SEIA released a video (linked below) showcasing the solar hiring tool and how solar companies can benefit from it.

About the HBCU Talent Exchange

As SEIA explains, they see the HBCU Talent Exchange “as one way we can help our member companies address hiring challenges, while simultaneously reducing hiring bias and mismatches between job seekers and companies. The Talent Exchange moves beyond resume and job description searches to share more accurate information that helps both employers and job seekers make more informed hiring decisions.”

Unlike traditional hiring tools and solar job boards, the Talent Exchange is survey-based rather than resume based, using a proprietary matching software that’s designed to better assess what positions a candidate is a good fit for—and connect candidates and organizations that might not otherwise have found each other.

Companies with job openings answer a variety of questions about their needs and preferences for the position, and candidates answer questions about their skills, interests, and workplace. Candidates are ranked based on their fit for different roles and companies, and the system generates customized reports for employers and candidates that help show areas of alignment and potential misalignment. Additionally, with standardized views of candidate qualifications—and notifications of top matches—employers can more easily compare candidates and make better decisions, faster.

The system also helps ensure qualified candidates are aware of and considered for relevant positions because candidates are invited to apply for new openings relevant to their interests, and the system evaluates the fit of each applicant for every job within a category (for instance, if there are two similar jobs at the same company, the candidate will be considered for both without having to reapply). It can also mask information prone to bias. Jobs posted in the system are automatically posted to 5000 other no-cost local, regional and national job sites.

To learn more, SEIA and HBCU CDAC’s video below provides an overview of the system and how to post a job (see ~16:20 for a demonstration of the system). To post a job on the HBCU Talent exchange, you can visit its webpage, and select “Post a Job” to create an account.

If you’re looking for a new avenue to connect with qualified candidates, this is an opportunity to efficiently fill solar job openings while also reducing hiring bias and potentially increase diversity in your company. As we highlighted in a past blog post, a diverse workforce has been shown to bring many benefits to companies. The first-ever study of diversity in the solar sector (by The Solar Foundation in 2017) found plenty of room for improving racial and gender diversity in the solar workforce; this tool could be a helpful step in that direction.

P.S. Speaking of solar jobs, we’re hiring here at Aurora! Our careers page has all of our open positions if you or someone you know are interested.

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Topics: Solar Business Tips, Solar Jobs

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