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February 12, 2019

CT sees slight uptick in solar jobs

PHOTO | Contributed A crew from SolarCity installs panels in Wethersfield.

While U.S. solar employment declined in 2018 for the second straight year, Connecticut solar jobs held stable, according to the nonprofit Solar Foundation’s annual count.

The ninth annual “National Solar Jobs Census” said there were 2,193 solar jobs in Connecticut last year, up from 2,168 in 2017, an uptick of about 1 percent (which was within the report’s 1.45 percent margin of error).

The Solar Foundation defines a “solar job” as one held by a worker spending at least 50 percent of his or her time on solar-related work. That’s a conservative definition, the foundation said, as 90 percent of the jobs it counted for 2018 were dedicated entirely to solar work.

Connecticut had the 22nd highest number of solar jobs per capita last year (one of every 778 overall jobs), the report said.

Connecticut was one of 29 states that had higher job counts in the solar industry between 2017 and 2018, with the biggest gainers being Florida (which surpassed Massachusetts for the second-most jobs), Illinois, Texas and New York.

While more than half of states added solar jobs last year, the U.S. lost a net total of 7,928 solar positions, falling to 242,343, a decline of 3.2 percent. That drop was led by a big decline of nearly 9,600 jobs in California, the country’s most significant solar market.

Two-thirds of solar jobs in the country are installation and project-development positions.

The 2018 jobs slowdown was related to lower-than-expected solar installations, fueled in part by a 30 percent tariff on imported solar modules. The tariff, which will gradually decline through 2022, was put in place in Jan. 2018, but uncertainty during the lead-up to the tariff also impacted developers’ ability to plan projects, the report said.

Companies that responded to the survey predicted 2019 will be a better year, estimating that U.S. solar employment will reach 259,400, which would be a 7 percent increase over 2018.

A pending rampdown of the federal Investment Tax Credit for solar is driving that optimism, as are longer term state-level policies requiring higher amounts of renewable energy in their respective power generation mixes. Connecticut’s set of so-called “Renewable Portfolio Standards” will require utilities and other energy providers to obtain 40 percent of the energy they generate or sell from renewable sources (as defined by state law) by 2030, up from 19.5 percent this year.

Despite its growth, solar remains a tiny portion of the overall energy mix, both here and across the country. From January to November 2018, solar energy provided about 2 percent of the megawatt hours in the total U.S. energy mix, according to federal data.

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