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Solar Secrets
Shining a Light on the Darker Side of Solar Power


Rooftop solar’s jobs potential: superheated claims, half-baked stats

on March 18, 2015

An enlightening commentary by the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy takes on some of the urban myths often perpetuated by the rooftop-solar industry and its enthusiasts. Such challenges to conventional wisdom are a refreshing antidote to the hype surrounding solar power. They also have the potential to reorient public policy toward reality, assuming our policy makers pay heed.

Rooftop solar's vaunted—and, arguably, overstated—potential for job creation is an example. In Louisiana, where generous tax subsidies to the solar industry are coming under scrutiny thanks to an eye-opening report by the state's Public Service Commission, the industry's lobby is insisting that subsidies are needed in part to sustain job growth. Yet, as the Partnership's Lance Brown points out:

"According to data from The Solar Foundation, 1,200 Louisianans worked in solar jobs last year. That's not insignificant, of course. But consider that solar employment in Louisiana fell by two hundred jobs from the year prior. That ranked the state in the bottom half nationally—just 34th in America—in solar jobs per capita."

That's right; the industry's actual performance in job creation was pretty anemic compared with that of other states. Adds Brown:

"Now consider that Louisiana taxpayers are pouring in $42 million in public subsidy, or $35,000 per job, to support the state's solar industry. That's a lot of money for such a low ranking, especially for an industry that is actually losing jobs.

Good money after bad?

Of course, to hardcore rooftop-solar enthusiasts, probably no amount of money spent propping up the industry is too much; they believe in solar power as an end in itself and vest it with almost mythic value.

Rank-and-file ratepayers and taxpayers, however, want value for their dollars and understandably will expect something closer to a cost-benefit-analysis of what they pay per kilowatt-hour. It's about time they get a sober rendering of the true cost of all new-generation energy sources, whose value too often is conveyed in warm-and-fuzzies rather than dollars and cents.

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