Mayors across the country are charged with the difficult task of bringing jobs to residents, building up infrastructure, and providing a healthy environment for families. However, too often, the solutions to these challenges are at odds with one another—and bringing in new industries may come at the cost of environmental degradation. While there is never a perfect solution to any problem, solar power promises viable opportunities to cities.
Prices for solar power infrastructure have sunk over the last decade, and will continue to decline as new technologies emerge. Because of this, investing in solar has become an increasingly attractive opportunity for cities, as they seek to bring in clean energy, and boost their local economy. While still accounting for only 1% of the nation’s energy generation, solar last year created 1 of every 83 new jobs, and has grown by 123% over the last five years. These are jobs that are well paying, stable, and must be filled by hard-working Americans.
Mayors and local government leaders must facilitate the expansion of the solar industry in their communities. Through tax credits for homeowners to install solar panels, to working with local utilities and community solar programs, local leaders can play an important role in building the industry. The actions of mayors can help empower communities to produce their own electricity, slash energy bills, boost local economies, and facilitate the transition away from dirty fossil fuels. Find out how to make a difference by joining Path to Positive Communities.
The US energy and climate debate has long been framed as a competition between jobs and the environment. It’s the high-polluting energy sources that buoy national employment figures, the standard thinking goes, while clean power does little to promote economic growth.
That dynamic is changing. As the price of solar power continues to plummet – and the costs of extracting oil, gas, and coal continue to rise – solar is emerging as a significant job creator in a shifting energy economy.
To be sure, solar accounts for less than 1 percent of the country’s total energy mix. Taken together, fossil fuels power most of the economy and support a sprawling labor force from coast to coast. Still, one out of every 83 new jobs created economy-wide in 2015 was in the solar industry, according to a report released this week by the Solar Foundation, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington. In 2015 the solar energy sector employed 208,859 people, adding 35,052 new jobs from the year before, on par with the level of growth of the previous two years.
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