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US Solar Sector Expects to Lose 120,000 Jobs As COVID-19 Impacts the Green Energy Industry

published: 2020-05-08 18:30

The stay-at-home order and lockdown policy implemented in accordance with the COVID-19 pandemic have reduced the frequency of land transportation and air traffic, as well as the demand for petroleum; although this has helped clear up the sky and led to a new record of power generation for solar plants, the outcome has been rather gloomy for the relevant industry. US trade organizations anticipate that there will be 120,000 jobs lost in the solar energy sector, and 35,000 in the wind energy sector.

Although a number of solar manufacturers believe that solar energy is able to assist households in realizing self-sufficient electricity, where residents are no longer affected by power cut, and that they won’t have to worry about the increased electricity fee derived from working at home, the design and installation of solar panels require the help of manufacturers or experts, which is prone to the impact from the pandemic.

For the consideration of the installers’ health, Thomas Werner, CEO of SunPower, the second largest solar power company in the US, expressed that the company has suspended more than 400 residential solar system installations. Abigail Ross Hopper, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association, also pointed out that the door-to-door sales can no longer be applied under the substantial losses of solar businesses, where the existing customers are all potential clients, and that commercial users have also been reduced.

As pointed out by Hopper, there are possibly numerous small companies that are facing shutdown, and more than half of solar jobs are in jeopardy. Take Luminalt for example; the solar company has laid off more than half its 40 employees, whereas another solar company Cinnamon Energy Systems has decided to implement furlough for 20 residential and commercial solar workers.

Residential solar company Sungevity had previously conducted an extensive layoff affecting 387 workers. As for SunPower, the company decided to reduce the salary of its executives, cancel the performance bonuses for its workers, and revoke its financial guide for the 2020 fiscal year, with an anticipation of more than US$50 million saved in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to varying impact levels. Houston residential solar and energy storage service provider Sunnova Energy International expressed that the company is currently using conference calls and reducing face-to-face interactions, though CEO John Berger commented that clients are still willing to spend money, seeing the growth in installed capacity.

As for wind power, the hindrance of imported components, as well as the impact from domestic US transportations and the decreased manufacturing speed in wind turbines, have resulted in the wind energy industry being stranded from purchasing components overseas, together with the decelerated speed in transporting components to the working locations, and the speed in manufacturing new wind turbines. Tom Kiernan, CEO of American Wind Energy Association, commented that the he did not expect to encounter the deterioration since the US wind sector was advancing substantially just 1-2 months ago.

According to the data of AWEA, the US has installed 1.8MW of wind power in the first quarter of 2020, which was doubled compared to 2019. With the COVID-19 pandemic this year, an investment of 25GW from US$35 billion is currently in risk.

Energy consultation firm Wood Mackenzie expressed that the pandemic has led to a YoY drop of 17% in the new installed capacity of solar power, and there will be a YoY reduction of 20% in the manufacturing volume of wind turbines.

 (Cover photo source: pixabay)

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