Decline Due Primarily to Negative Impact of State-level Regulations
Sacramento, CA – California saw a 13% decline in local solar jobs figures in 2017 according to the Solar Foundation’s Annual Job Census. The job loss was felt throughout the industry, impacting small, medium and large companies doing business throughout the state. The state industry association chalked the losses up to the negative impacts of state policy decisions while emphasizing that the ship could be righted if the state made a few corrections and got solidly behind market development of complementary technologies such as energy storage.
“California’s solar industry is not impervious to changes in state policy,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association (formerly CALSEIA), which represents over 500 companies doing business in the state. “State policy is the tide that raises or sinks all local solar businesses. We greatly depend on clear, consistent rules of engagement which is not, unfortunately, what we got in 2017.”
Commensurate with the reported job losses, California saw its first decline in solar installations in nearly a decade in 2017. From January through November, California saw 1,024 MW of consumer-sited solar installed compared with 1,146 MW during the same time period in 2016. In contrast, 2016 had seen market growth from the 910 MW installed during the first eleven months of 2015. Not surprisingly, the 2016 Solar Jobs Census reported a 25% increase in jobs in California this time last year.
“Labor costs are one of the main components of the cost of going solar,” explained Del Chiaro. “This is one of the major upsides of investing in local solar. A higher percentage of your money goes right into your community in the form of local jobs that can’t be outsourced. When we harm the solar market, we take away local employment opportunities. It is that simple.”
The California Solar & Storage Association cited three main causes for the market decline in 2017: 1) heavy rains at the beginning of the year that slowed sales and construction, which could have been overcome but for the rough 2) transition to new Net Energy Metering and Time-of-Use policies, and, 3) interconnection barriers put forward by the state’s investor-owned utilities. The Association clarified that the decline could not be blamed on changing business models or market saturation.
“This job losses impacted companies of all shapes, sizes and models, even some of our most successful businesses saw at least a slow down in 2017,” said Del Chiaro. “As a group, we are incredibly resilient and adaptable but if state regulators allow utilities to block consumer access to the sun, there is only so much even the most creative business can do.”
Del Chiaro cited a few things state policy makers could do to correct the market including removing interconnection barriers particularly for the commercial and industrial market, smoothing transitions to Time-of-Use rates to allow consumers to get acclimatized, and investing heavily in energy storage through tried-and-true programs, such as consumer incentives, that help drive market adoption.
“There is every reason to remain bullish about the future of local solar and energy storage but we have got to get the rules of engagement right or we will all fall short of our goals,” concluded Del Chiaro.
About CALIFORNIA SOLAR & STORAGE ASSOCIATION
The California Solar & Storage Association (formerly CALSEIA) advances the common interests of California’s solar and storage businesses. Comprised of over 500 contractors, manufacturers, distributors, developers, financiers, consultants and non-profit organizations, the California Solar & Storage Association represents a diverse membership committed to growing the solar and storage industry statewide. The Association engages with local and state decision makers to ensure California remains a solar energy leader through sound public policy that provides clarity, transparency, and certainty for the state’s consumer-facing local clean energy market.