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An Open Letter on COVID-19: The Resilience of the Solar Industry

Wednesday, May 20 2020

Abigail Ross Hopper
#SaveSolarJobs developer

Two months ago, I wrote an open letter to the solar industry about COVID-19, describing what SEIA was doing to address this profound crisis, and laying out what we knew about the impacts of the virus on solar companies nationwide. 

The world has changed dramatically in the weeks since  in small ways, as many of us adapt to teleworking and socially distant living, and in profound ways, as this public health crisis deepens and U.S. unemployment reaches its worst level in generations. I wanted to take this moment to reflect on our experience, share what SEIA and our members are doing, and talk about where we go from here. 

The Impacts on Solar Companies are Severe…

Like so many American industries, the solar industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. Just this week, we released new data showing that instead of adding more than 50,000 jobs during the first of half of this year as we projected, the industry has lost more than 65,000 workers. Tens of thousands of solar projects have been cancelled or postponed, putting billions of dollars of economic investment on indefinite hold.

Through our industry survey, we’ve heard from many of you about the hardships and challenges you’re facing, from companies letting go hundreds of workers to recent startups that are unsure whether their new business will survive the pandemic. 

…But Our Industry is Resilient

Despite these challenges, the solar industry has stepped up in numerous ways. Companies large and small have gone out of their way to be part of the solution to COVID-19, donating supplies and resources to relief efforts and supporting their local communities. We’ve heard from so many in the industry who are deeply concerned about the safety of their workers and are assiduously adhering to guidance from government and public health officials. I have never been prouder to serve this resilient and hardworking industry.

How We’re Responding

In addition to fighting through this crisis, the solar industry is working to establish a policy and market environment that will help create American jobs, stimulate the economy, build the next generation of America’s clean power plants and create an inclusive and diverse workforce.

Alongside our members and allies, we have conducted hundreds of phone calls and video meetings with legislators at the state and federal level to talk about how COVID-19 is affecting solar companies, what policymakers can do to #SaveSolarJobs, and how this industry is poised to help rebuild the U.S. economy. There is much more work to be done  and I strongly encourage you to join us in this campaign

We also are taking care of the day-to-day business of ensuring development and implementation of smart state policies, fighting for trade policies that do no further harm to solar and advocating fiercely for competitive markets and open access for clean energy at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the Department of the Treasury, the U.S. Trade Representative and other agencies to get the best possible outcomes for our industry.

What’s Next

Last year, we unveiled a bold vision for the future  for solar to reach 20% of electricity generation by 2030 during what we’re calling The Solar+ Decade, an era of radical market transformation for energy in the U.S. I firmly believe that those goals and the efforts we undertake to achieve that future are more relevant than ever. 

By advocating for the solar industry during this crisis, we are fighting on behalf of American industrial progress, American innovation and American jobs. This is no Green New Deal, and it’s not a handout from Uncle Sam. We are setting a comprehensive policy vision that creates hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs  with a commitment to ensure our workforce reflects the diversity of our nation  as we build a resilient electricity infrastructure to bring clean, reliable, low-cost power to millions of Americans.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis have highlighted many vulnerabilities and areas in need of reform across our economy. But it has also provided an opportunity to build the future we need. As we look for ways to put Americans back to work, the solar industry stands ready to come back stronger than before and help lead our nation’s economic recovery. 

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