Georgia’s solar industry lost ground in 2018; state can resume progress, GSEA says
By David Pendered
Several new reports paint a fairly grim picture of the solar industry in Georgia, including one that shows the state lost 14 percent of the jobs last year that had been created in the solar industry. Georgia policymakers and the Trump administration’s tariffs are responsible for the downturn, reports contend.
That said, the industry evidently is sifting through various indicators to determine its exact posture.
In January 2018, a report by the Solar Energy Industry Association predicted that Trump’s 30 percent tariff on Chinese-manufactured solar cells and modules would result in the loss of 23,000 solar-related jobs nationwide in 2018.
The Solar Foundation issued a jobs census last week that shows 8,000 jobs were lost nationwide from January through November 2018. Georgia’s share of the reported job loss was 614, leaving the state’s solar industry with 3,696 employees, according to the foundation’s report.
One constant in the various reports is that Georgia leaders have chosen against investing in the solar sector. After a reasonably strong start, progress has slowed, particularly in the smaller solar arrays of the types mounted on the roofs of houses and businesses.
The situation in the rooftop sector has reached the point that Russell Seifert, chairman of the Georgia Solar Energy Association, highlights it in his column in this month’s newsletter:
- “With 2019 dawning, speculation has risen about why the largest state East of the Mississippi has not supported its solar industry as proactively as some of its surrounding states….
- “Many states in the U.S – and some in the Southeast – have adopted new policies to support and encourage rooftop solar, but Georgia isn’t among them…. At GA Solar, we believe Georgia can again rejoin the ranks of innovative solar leadership in the Southeast.”
Seifert’s optimism notwithstanding, reports show Georgia’s forward momentum in promoting solar as an alternative source of energy has dwindled. Here are a few examples:
- Georgia ranks 47th in the nation, earning a grade of “F” on its solar power policies, and the future isn’t bright as the state has no statewide incentive for installing solar panels;
The North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center reports:
- Georgia is one of six states that have taken no steps to enact, “statewide incentives or changes to existing incentives for energy storage, microgrids, and other modern grid technologies;
DSIRE, operated by N.C. State University, reports:
Georgia has 58 incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency. That compares to 13 in coal-producing West Virginia; 100 in the Sunshine State of Florida; 57 in New Mexico and 226 in California, which has the most such programs.
The Solar Foundation’s job report observes:
- “Georgia is expected to experience a decline in utility-scale developments in 2019, which is the sector that suffered the most from uncertainty over tariffs on solar modules and cells.”
Of note, DSIRE itself is an apparent casualty of the debate over solar. DSIRE was established at NCSU in 1995 and has been funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. That funding is no more, according to DSIRE’s request for donations:
- “After 20+ years of federal support, the funding to keep this an open and free resource has been discontinued. We will strive to keep DSIRE free and open for as long as we can, but we ask for your financial support to do so. Please consider giving a tax-deductible donation to support DSIRE today.”