1603 Program, A Proven Job Creator

By Andrea Luecke, Executive Director, The Solar Foundation

December 5, 2011 - Reposted from National Journal

Right now, there are 26 million Americans unemployed, underemployed or discouraged. This is an unprecedented number and over the last two years the unemployment rate has hovered between 9 and 10%. Allowing the Section 1603 Treasury Program, a proven jobs creator, to lapse will place unnecessary cost burdens of solar companies (large and small) and stunt their ability to hire new workers. 

Why does this matter? The solar industry increased its workforce by 6.8 percent between August 2010 and August 2011 – nearly ten times faster than the overall economy. During that same time period, fossil fuel electric generation reduced its workforce by 2 percent. In other words, the solar industry is creating jobs when everyone else is cutting jobs or inching along.

According to a report my organization released in October, National Solar Jobs Census 2011, the solar industry now employs more than 100,000 Americans. That’s more than double the number of solar jobs that were estimated two years ago and the Section 1603 Treasury Program was a major driver of that growth.

Extending the 1603 Program will be integral for continuing solar job growth. When surveying employers for our National Jobs Census, employers told us they expect to hire 24,000 new workers by August 2012, but without the 1603 Program, and the continuation of other smart policies that make it easier or cheaper for companies to operate or reduce the cost of solar, it is doubtful that anticipated job growth will occur. A report by EuPD Research found that a one-year extension of the 1603 Program will create 37,000 new jobs.

It is my hope that we will not allow a proven jobs creator to become the victim of election year politics. 37,000 new jobs are at stake.