New U.S. job figures demonstrate the potential of solar

By Arman Kazemi

February 19, 2015

According to the Solar Foundation’s latest census report, job creation in U.S. solar continued its upward trend in 2014. The 2014 National Solar Jobs Census reported over 31,000 new jobs last year, or one out of every 78 new jobs created in the U.S as a whole. The total number of solar-related jobs was 173,807 by the end of 2014, a growth of over 22 per cent from 2013.

That’s almost 20 times faster than the national average employment growth rate of 1.1 per cent. The installation sector dominated this growth with over 97,000 new positions, accounting for more than half of the total jobs in the solar industry.

Indeed, installation-related jobs “added nearly 50 per cent more jobs in 2014 than the total created by both the oil and gas pipeline construction industry (10,529), and the crude petroleum and natural gas extraction industry (8,688),” according to a Solar Foundation press release.

Immediately following the report’s publication, Clean Technica posted a follow-up connecting the new clean energy jobs figures with the potential employment growth often cited by supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline.

According to Clean Technica, Keystone XL would be responsible for creating about 45,000 jobs, with 4,000 directly related to construction of the pipeline. Of all these jobs, Clean Technica, citing a study from the State Department, estimates the number of permanent jobs directly related to Keystone XL at 35.

In Canada, a similar narrative emerges when green employment figures are compared to jobs generated by the oil sands, of which Keystone XL is a part.

Across the country, Canada’s green energy sector employs 23,700 people, compared to 22,340 who work directly for the oil sands, according to a Clean Energy Canada report from late last year. The same report puts investment in Canadian clean energy at over $25 billion over the past 5 years.

Despite the oil sands being often touted as a domestic jobs booster and attracting sizeable tax exemptions from the federal government, Canadian clean tech been able to keep pace with relatively minor federal intervention.

As previously reported, much of the interest in clean tech investments comes from private investors outside of Canada, in addition to key leadership from a few select provinces.

With a White House veto of Keystone XL all but guaranteed, and job figures from both sides of the border countering industry narratives, there seems little reason for federal politicians to continue advancing the cause of the oil sands at the expense of Canada’s abundant clean energy assets.

If the findings of the Solar Foundations are any indication, these 23,700 green sector jobs in Canada are only the tip of the iceberg.



Photo Credit: Green Energy Futures