WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama announced the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will launch a new initiative to train 75,000 Americans — including military veterans — to enter the solar workforce by 2020. Obama made the announcement at Hill Air Force Base in Utah as part of a roundtable discussion on clean energy technology and workforce training with Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah; Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah; and Ralph Becker, mayor, Salt Lake City.
“This new initiative will provide a big boost to the U.S. economy while also helping to maintain solar energy’s explosive jobs growth,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “With stable public policies in place, we will not only meet the president’s goal of adding 75,000 new solar jobs in America by 2020, we will blow past it. Today, the solar industry already employs 174,000 workers nationwide — more than tech giants Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter combined — and pumps nearly $18 billion a year into our economy. This remarkable growth is due in large part to public policies, such as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM), and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). By any measurement, these policies are paying huge dividends for both our economy and environment.” According to The Solar Foundation’s 2014 National Jobs Census, the solar industry in America is becoming increasingly diverse with minorities, women, and veterans representing a growing percentage of the workforce. Over the past five years alone, the industry has added more than 80,000 new employees — an increase of 86 percent.
Also, as part of the announcement, the White House will work to make G.I. Bill funding available to support solar workforce training. Dating back to 1944, the G.I. Bill has been widely hailed by historians as one of America’s most successful economic and political programs.
The White House’s new workforce training initiative closely tracks U.S. public opinion. A Gallup Poll shows 91 percent of Americans want to see more emphasis, or the same emphasis as today, on producing solar energy.
Today, there are 20 GW of installed solar capacity in the U.S. — enough to power more than 4 million homes — with another 20 GW projected to come online by the end of 2016.
“Every 2.5 minutes, the U.S. solar industry is helping to fight climate change by flipping the switch on another completed solar project,” Resch added. “We’re proud that solar accounted for one-third of all new electric generation capacity last year in the U.S. And, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our enormous potential.”
Publication date: 4/27/2015