Navigant Consulting released the results of its new economic study this week indicating that more than 1.2 million employment opportunities and US $232 billion in investment would be supported by the U.S. solar energy sector alone through 2016 if Congress extends the solar investment tax credit (ITC) for 8 years.
For the study, Navigant Consulting estimated the impact that extending the tax credits would have on solar industry domestic employment and domestic investment using data from the three major forms of solar energy technology: Photovoltaic (PV), Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) and Solar Water Heating (SWH).
"By extending the solar investment tax credits, Congress can provide an immediate boost to the floundering U.S. economy by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and injecting billions of dollars of new investment capital into the economy, while at the same time driving down energy costs for consumers," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), based in Washington, D.C.
"The solar energy industry creates jobs that are the foundation of our economy — jobs for manufacturers, construction workers, engineers, roofers, electricians and plumbers. These jobs are needed now and Congress is in a position to extend the ITC and ensure that these jobs are created here in the U.S."
According to the study, by 2016, the solar energy industry would create 440,000 permanent U.S. jobs with much of the direct growth occurring in domestic manufacturing, construction and the trades. This figure reveals the strength of the solar job creation engine when compared to the current 79,000 direct employees of the coal mining industry and the 136,000 direct employees in oil and gas extraction.
"There is the potential to create significant U.S. employment and investment opportunities," said Jay Paidipati, Managing Consultant at Navigant Consulting. "An 8-year extension of the ITC would allow the market to maintain or possibly exceed its current growth rate."
Since many solar energy components are manufactured near the markets the industry serves, extending the ITC would create manufacturing and installation jobs in all 50 states, with California, Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington as the states most likely to see the largest economic boost. In some states, the number of jobs could grow as much as 300% or more.
Similarly, the economies of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and the rest of the Great Lakes region would grow significantly from solar energy if Congress passes the ITC extension, according to a press release issued by SEIA. With the recent decline in automotive and traditional manufacturing jobs that has hit these areas, an economic boost would be a welcome change.
"We strongly urge Congress to seize this opportunity to extend the solar investment tax credit for 8 years now before leaving for the campaign trail," said Resch.
The Navigant study also pointed out that the solar industry creates high quality domestic jobs. The greatest growth will occur in new manufacturing, construction, and engineering jobs, and in the roofing, electrical, and plumbing trades.
Beside jobs, its is estimated in the report that should Congress pass an 8-year extension of the 30% ITC, solar energy could produce 28 gigawatts (GW) of power by 2016, which is 19 GW more than is expected to be installed should the ITC not pass, according to the study.
Navigant also pointed out that 84,000 U.S. jobs were lost in just in August 2008, with 39,000 of those in the auto-making industry alone. The additional 440,000 jobs that would be created in the solar industry if an 8-year extension of the ITC passes would go a long way toward rebuilding a struggling American economy.
Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that includes ITC extensions, however the Senate is not expected to enter into debate on this version of the bill and is instead working on crafting its own bill that may include its own version of ITC extenders. (See accompanying news story.)
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