Environment & Energy Report

U.S. Solar Workforce Could Be Halved By Virus, Group Says

March 24, 2020, 7:09 PM

The leading U.S. solar-trade group is warning the fallout from the coronavirus could slash the industry’s workforce in half.

The Solar Energy Industries Association made the projection Monday as part of a campaign to convince Congress to make the federal tax credit for the sector refundable or payable directly to businesses and customers.

“As the stock market tanks, tax-equity markets are drying up making it even harder for solar companies to utilize tools like the solar investment tax credit,” Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

It’s a stark change from a month ago, when solar jobs were projected to surge 7.8% this year. The reasons for that earlier optimism included declining costs and a rush to install panels before tax credits expired.

Read More: Clean-Energy Credits Eyed for Virus Stimulus Package in Congress

Convincing the Senate to add a provision allowing for direct payments for renewable energy into the virus relief bill is apt to be difficult because Democrats have already opposed specific benefits for the oil and gas industry, said Keith Martin, a Washington-based attorney who specializes in wind and solar financing deals for the firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

“It’s a tall order,” Martin said in an interview, adding that the renewable energy industry hasn’t been hit as hard as airlines, hotels and other industries pushing for immediate relief. “Congress will need to show some foresight to address what is around the next bend in the road.”

(Adds additional quote from attorney in final paragraph.)

--With assistance from Christopher Martin.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Brian Eckhouse in Los Angeles at beckhouse@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Joe Ryan at jryan173@bloomberg.net

Pratish Narayanan

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