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Takeaways from the 2019 National Solar Jobs Census (Part 2)

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It's become an annual tradition here at MREA to celebrate the release of The Solar Foundation's National Solar Jobs Census report, which was released earlier this year. Read on for MREA's analysis of the 2019 Census!

This is Part 2 of a 2 part series. Part 1 focused on National Trends. Part 2 focuses on specific takeaways for Montana.

Quick Look: Montana Industry Metrics

  • 2019 Solar Jobs: 308
  • Solar businesses: 42
  • Year to Year % Growth in Solar Jobs: 12.7%
  • 2019 Solar Jobs Rank by State: 49
  • 2019 Solar Jobs per Capita Rank by State: 43
  • 2019 Solar Companies Rank by State: 42
MT Solar jobs graphic
Source: The Solar Foundation

The State of Solar in Montana

MT solar job trendlineMontana's solar industry continued its multi-year trend of growth, showing an increase of 183% since 2015! The steady growth is a great sign, especially considering the hurdles that companies have had to jump. More than anything, this continued growth is an indicator that ever more Montanas are looking to solar as a way to control their energy costs and increase their resiliency.

Last year, the market faced extended uncertainty during prime installation months due to a utility proposal to end net metering as we know it. Fortunately, we prevailed in winning that case, and Montana's net metering program continues on! Unfortunately, regulatory (and legislative) uncertainty is all too common in Montana. And though we were expecting a rebound year, we are now waiting to see the full impacts of the COVID-19 emergency. Like other construction businesses, solar and wind installers are able to continue their work while still safely maintaining social distancing requirements. Meanwhile, as more Montanans are working from home they're realizing how impactful on-site renewable energy can be in locking in long-term energy savings, reducing energy bills, and adding resiliency to personal lifestyles.

MT solar industry context graphic
Source: The Solar Foundation

The Hidden Metric

There's one metric you won't find among job statistics that we think is very important: Montana's solar resource rank's 25th among states. And yet, the census shows that Montana ranks 49th in solar jobs (43rd per capita). We looked at a few other states to see how their solar resource ranked up against their solar jobs numbers. California, for example, is 2nd in solar resource and 1st in solar jobs (4th, per capita). Similarly, Arizona is 1st in solar resource and 6th in solar jobs (9th, per capita). Then, there are states like Vermont, which is 49th solar resource yet 34th in solar jobs (3rd, per capita!). There's New York, which is 43rd in solar resource and 3rd in solar jobs (26th, per capita). And there's Idaho, which is 10th in solar resource yet 44th in solar jobs (44th, per capita).

The numbers from states like New York and Vermont suggest that solar resource isn't the only thing you need to grow your market. Which begs the question, what is going on there and how can states like Montana and Idaho (who have a good solar resource) share in the same market growth that other states are seeing?

Opening the Floodgates

The answer is no bombshell. MT's solar policies are simply archaic. They are quite literally from a different century. According to the Solar Foundation's survey respondents, the biggest factors contributing to the difficulty of growing a profitable solar business are Policy Changes and Interconnection Delays. Montana's renewable energy policies are like a tourniquet on a hose. Instead of restricting growth, we need to open the flood gates and let the market reach its full potential.

Source: The Solar Foundation

Renewable energy is a heavily policy driven industry. Much like public lands and clean air, it's an issue that Montanans from across the political spectrum support. Montanans want to install renewable energy at their homes and businesses, and throughout their communities. We are happy to share that Montana's renewable energy industry is continuing to grow, despite consistent hurdles to jump, and we will continue to work on modernizing the policies that would allow the industry to better meet the demand from Montanans everywhere. Will hope that next year we will have even better growth numbers to share!

You can help us reach our goals by getting involved with MREA! MREA is a leading voice for renewable energy education & advocacy in Montana. Help grow our voice and get a front row seat to our advocacy:

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