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Published on June 26th, 2009 | by Jennifer Kho


Green Jobs: So Attractive, So Few, So Far

June 26th, 2009 by  

The prospect of green jobs has proven very attractive to Californian job seekers. According to a survey released this week by the Vote Solar Initiative, a solar advocacy group, more than 5,400 people are participating in solar job training programs this year in the state.

“It is clear that Californians of different economic and educational backgrounds are all looking to solar to provide much-needed career opportunities, and the state’s training institutions have stepped up to meet that rising demand,” said Claudia Eyzaguirre, the author of the report, in a press release.

But it’s not clear whether the state will have enough jobs to support these trainees. Part of that will depend on the kinds of jobs they are training for.

While installations are growing in California, with 91.3 megawatts installed under the California Solar Initiative in the first five months of this year, compared to 40.5 megawatts in the same period last year, solar-panel pricing has fallen steeply as more panels have hit the market while demand – partly due to a dramatically shrinking Spanish market – has dropped. That’s raising the pressure for manufacturers to cut costs and giving installers a break. As rebates fall, on a schedule determined by the number of installations, in California, installers’ margins may also decline unless they also are able to cut costs.

Another big threat to California solar installations comes in the form of a net metering limit. Net metering, in which customers can feed renewable electricity into the grid for a reduction in their electricity bills, is capped at 2.5 percent in the state, and one utility, the Pacific Gas and Electric Co., is expected to reach that limit next year. The state Senate is considering a bill that would boost the limit to 10 percent, but if the bill doesn’t pass, installations will stop once the cap is reached, solar advocates say.

In the press release, Browning called the net metering limit the “single most significant obstacle facing solar job growth in the state” and said the thousands of trainees will not find jobs if it isn’t lifted.

Image courtesy of adobemac via a Flickr Creative Commons license.

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About the Author

-- With more than nine years of reporting experience, Jennifer Kho has been covering green technology since 2004, when she started the cleantech beat at Red Herring magazine. She wrote for Red Herring until 2007, when she helped launch the Greentech Media site as its founding editor. She left Greentech Media in November. Her stories have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and TheStreet.com. She also regularly contributes to Earth2Tech.

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