Tag Archives: Solar Industry Jobs

U.S. solar industry battles ‘white privilege’ image problem

By Nichola Groom, Reuters

Solar power companies have an image problem—and they are beginning to do something about it.

Despite a sharp drop in the price of solar panels and innovative financing plans that have brought the technology to many middle income households over the past decade, it is still seen as a luxury only rich, mostly white, consumers can afford. That perception both hampers solar expansion in less affluent communities and drives political opposition to initiatives promoting greater use of solar power as a renewable alternative to gas, oil and coal.

Though it has grown dramatically in recent years, solar power still makes up less than 1 percent of U.S. energy supplies and relies heavily on government incentives to compete with traditional energy sources. Those incentives help companies such as SolarCity, Sunrun and others market solar power contracts that offer customers 20 percent savings on their energy bills. However, the schemes come with certain credit requirements and are ill-suited for apartment dwellers, homes with low monthly bills or low-income households that qualify for reduced power rates.

Since minorities make up a disproportionate number of low-income households, some advocacy groups have opposed certain solar power initiatives arguing that they deepen social and racial inequality. Solar companies are now trying to tackle both the perceptions and the economics by pushing to diversify their workforce, forging alliances with minority groups, and making solar power more suitable for multi-family housing.

The stakes are particularly high in California, by far the top U.S. solar market where solar power is expected to make up more than 10 percent of the state’s power generation in 2015, according to IHS. Communities with median household incomes below $40,000 account for just 5 percent of installations in the state even though a third of California households fall into that category. That share has not changed over the past seven years even as solar installations in communities in the $55,000-$70,000 income bracket have risen to more than half of the total market.

Read full article from Reuters

Op-ed: The end of coal is near

By David Hochschild (Member, California Energy Commission) & Danny Kennedy (Managing Director, California Clean Energy Fund), The San Francisco Chronicle

We are witnessing the end of an era. Coal is fast becoming the telegraph to renewable energy’s Internet. American coal stocks are undergoing the most precipitous decline in the history of the energy industry.

While coal remains America’s largest source of electricity generation, over the past six years coal-fired generation has declined from 52 to 34 percent of our electricity portfolio. We must turn away from coal — an old, dirty, increasingly less profitable technology — and invest in the high-growth, high-margin clean technologies taking its place.

Renewable energy, which made up just 12 percent of California’s generation in 2008, now provides more than 25 percent of the state’s power. California is on track to reach Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, after which fossil fuels will become the alternative energy. As a result of this progress, there are now more Californians working in the solar industry than working for the state’s utilities. The United States now has twice as many solar industry employees as coal miners. As we work to accelerate the transition to a clean energy future, we need to ensure that America’s 80,000 coal miners are given the support they need and that the new energy economy’s benefits are widely shared.

Read full op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle