Even though the outlook of solar in the United States may seem bleak due to recent changes made by the current government to purportedly slow down the accelerating consumer adoption of clean energy in an attempt to create a resurgence of Americans’ demand and dependence on coal and other fossil fuels, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The solar industry has proven resilient through many challenges in the past, and the global demand for clean energy options continues to grow. Installation costs have fallen substantially in the past decade, making solar the most cost-effective option so solar costs will continue to fall over time despite temporary setbacks. The market operates on the basis of consumer demand and the fact is that when given the choice, consumers would rather buy clean, less expensive energy than costly, dirty energy. This will result in cleaner, cheaper electricity reaching more people over the next decade.
Despite the new tariffs on imported solar products manufactured in other countries and the US federal government’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Treaty, individual states are reaffirming their commitment to combat climate change with carbon caps and incentives to homeowners who go with personal solar systems. Although the tariffs could cause domestic manufacturing jobs to increase, the bulk of workers in the solar industry are not in manufacturing but are installers and managers of solar projects, a process that is labor-intensive and difficult to automate. Additionally, solar panels account for a consistently decreasing percentage of a project’s overall cost, so the increase imposed by the new tariffs should be mitigated by a reduction in other project expenses.
There will undoubtedly be rises in the wholesale price of modules, but industry experts don’t expect the new tariffs to lead to any meaningful increase in the cost of residential solar energy systems over 2018. Rather, the new tariffs will take away cost reductions that would have happened without the tariffs as they absorb the efficiency improvements that will happen across the solar supply chain during 2018 and 2019.
Renewable energy is currently a very hot topic in this country and clean solutions are at the top of most of the population’s priorities. Simply put, it’s safe to say that clean energy isn’t just winning – it officially has won. And so, while the tariff could hurt the solar workforce in the short term, we must keep in mind that the tailwinds are forcefully behind solar energy. Costs will continue to go down, innovation will push new bounds, and the demand for a clean energy future will grow. The future is bright.
By Sharon Derby, Solar Energy World