Skip to main content

LATEST UPDATES: Racial Justice | Tracking COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Solar Industry Fighting To Help Lead Economic Recovery

Borrego Springs Solar Plant generating power in the hot desert valley on June...

Photo by Kris Arciaga

Above: Borrego Springs Solar Plant generating power in the hot desert valley on June 1, 2016.

The coronavirus pandemic snuffed out more than five years of job growth in the nation’s solar industry and the job losses are happening faster than the rest of the economy.

However, industry officials say there is hope.

The solar industry officials predicted there would be more than 300,000 people on their payrolls by the end of the year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drained the light out of that forecast.

Reported by Erik Anderson

“COVID really hit us hard,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar and Supply Association. “I know it hit a lot of businesses hard but we lost, almost overnight, 21% of our workforce. That’s around 12,000 people that were furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID.”

RELATED: Testing For COVID-19 Key To Restarting San Diego Economy

Many of the jobs that disappeared in the past two months are construction jobs.

“What we call boots on the roof,” Del Chiaro said. “The guys and gals that go out and climb up on roofs and actually do the installation work building what I call our clean energy future. Every roof at a time. One roof at a time.”

Del Chiaro is calling on government officials to let the solar industry lead the economic recovery.

She said there are a number of different strategies, including extending federal tax credits, removing regulatory barriers, and pushing for the installation of a million solar fed batteries.

“The government, local government, state government and federal government are all going to be trying to solve the issue of how do we get our economy moving again. How do we get people back to work,” said Abby Hopper, the president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

RELATED: Report: Coronavirus Could Cause 50% Drop In California Travel Spending

Hopper regularly lobbies for the industry on Capitol Hill and she said the jobs can come back quickly if lawmakers support the industry.

“We have really accelerated online permitting, instant permitting, remote permitting,” Hopper said. “Actually, I am hopeful (that) will continue past this crisis and make that process much more efficient.”

The industry can restart quickly and a solar led economic recovery could translate into a cleaner energy future, according to Hopper.

Listen to this story by Erik Anderson.

FEATURED PODCAST

San Diego News Matters podcast branding

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.

  • Don’t have time to keep up on the latest news? We’ve got you covered with a mid-week check-in every Wednesday afternoon.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Erik Anderson

Erik Anderson
Environment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI focus on the environment and all the implications that a changing or challenging environment has for life in Southern California. That includes climate change, endangered species, habitat, urbanization, pollution and many other topics.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.