According to a recent report by The Solar Foundation, the solar energy sector created 13,000 new jobs in 2012. Low costs for photovoltaic panels spurred a big uptick in demand for solar installations, which led to new jobs in most areas of the supply chain.
Still, consumers’ lack of awareness about solar products and services kept the solar energy sector from reaching its full potential this year. Educating consumers is just one way solar employers are adapting to the growing demand for solar power.
Here are three ways employers are getting read:
Recommendation #1: Educating Consumers
In an era of infographics, YouTube videos and mobile apps, consumers need easy-to-read visual depictions of how solar energy is going to improve their lives. Solar companies are beginning to recognize this shift in consumer behavior and have started to adapt more consumer-oriented messaging.
Recommendation #2: Investing in High-Quality Training
The solar industry is getting innovative in financing workforce training to meet the sector’s growing labor needs. For example, The Solar Foundation™ in partnership with SolarTech 49™ and the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners have proposed a revolving loan fund to support solar workforce development. The fund would be financed by contributions from industry.
Accelerating the pace of workforce development must be a priority for the solar sector. As installed solar capacity increases, so does demand for labor. It’s not yet clear how the industry will scale up to meet workforce needs as solar demand grows. Workforce training programs funded by tax dollars are already reaching the limits of their budgets; the private sector will need to step up soon.
Recommendation #3: Improving Public Education
Policymakers and the public need objective information on the number of jobs the solar industry creates. As we saw during the Presidential debates – and continue to see during negotiations to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” – lawmakers are deeply divided about who creates jobs in this country and how best to spur job creation. Providing better certainty about solar’s impact on jobs will ensure more transparent policy-making to create a growth-friendly regulatory environment.
The solar industry is improving its data collection and reporting. Credible trade associations and independent organizations continue to provide an increasingly comprehensive understanding of solar energy’s impact on our economy. Through more rigorous industry standards, solar employers are providing the sort of detailed, trustworthy data lawmakers need and the public demands, which is critical to the continued growth in U.S. solar capacity.
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