Last year, Los Angeles County topped the list for the most solar energy jobs in the country, closely followed by nearby Orange County. This year, Orange County moved up another spot as the nation’s most prolific job creator in the solar industry.
In 2015, more than 15,000 people were employed by the solar energy industry in Los Angeles, and another 6,100 people were employed installing and servicing solar panels in Orange County, according to the recently released Solar Jobs Census by the Solar Foundation.
Across the state, California racked up almost 75,600 jobs related to solar energy, marking an increase of 38 percent over the previous year.
More than half of all solar energy jobs related to the installation of solar panels, while the remainder were concentrated in the sales, distribution and manufacturing sectors.
Solar power is one of the major bright spots in the economy of California, says Bernadette Del Chiaro, director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association. Although conventional energy sectors like oil and gas are shedding gas, there is record growth in the jobs market for clean air and energy companies, according to Chiaro.
Los Angeles, Clark in Nevada and Maricopa in Arizona were the only other countries to boast more than 5,000 solar energy jobs, according to the Solar Jobs Census. The census also found that solar energy is a remarkably equal opportunity industry. More than one third of all workers employed in the solar energy sector in Los Angeles and Orange Countries are women or minorities.
Orange County, while exceptional, is part of a larger national trend. The Solar Jobs Census found that 32 states, as well as the District of Columbia, added jobs in the solar energy sector in 2015. Since 2012, half of all states have doubled employment in the solar energy sector, according to Andrea Luecke, leader of the Solar Foundation.
The report comes just as California regulators are set to vote on new rules that will oversee solar panel owners and which could determine the fate of the state’s burgeoning solar energy industry.
The vote will decide whether or not solar panel owners can sell electricity they do not use to utilities companies. Currently, under a decision handed down by the California Public Utilities Commission last December, solar panel owners are compensated by public utilities such as Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric for the energy they add to the grid.
The vote will also decide whether to levy small one-time, fees on solar panel owners to improve energy efficiency and assist low-income people. The solar industry is largely in favor of keeping the current compensation rules in place, even if it means new fees to help pay for maintain the electric grid. Utilities say that even with the new fees solar panel owners will not be paying their fair share to maintain infrastructure.
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(all data current as of 5/29/2017)
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