Tariff Suspended. Back to Business as Usual?
Uncertainty can paralyze a market and this is exactly what happened to the solar industry in 2022. While President Biden rescued the solar industry by pausing import tariffs for two years, was it too little, too late? Since Auxin Solar filed its petition to the US Department of Commerce in February, the solar industry has been in limbo. Already dealing with rising costs and limited availability due to supply chain issues, 80% of all US solar projects experienced project delays or downright cancellation. And now, the proof is in the data! SEIA and Wood Mackenzie said Q1-2022 installed 24% less solar than Q1-2021; and, in fact, Q1-2022 was the worst quarter in the solar industry in two years.
EnergeiaWorks is now seeing a slowdown in solar job creation. In May, we logged the least amount of new customer inquiries in two years and I get the feeling it's directly related to the uncertainty caused by the Auxin Solar case. Unfortunately, this trend has continued into June. You can bet I'll be watching these trends very closely throughout the summer, so keep reading my Outlook! I still predict that it is going to be a very slow ride to the other side of this employment bubble. Employers will undoubtedly remain active in hiring top talent through the remainder of the year, and likely into 2023 before we see any substantial changes.
Talent No-Show: Navigating the Great Resignation
Earlier this month, I joined a panel discussion at the Midwest Solar Expo in Minneapolis hosted by Julian Spector of Canary Media to talk about what EnergeiaWorks has experienced during the Great Resignation. It's been a wild ride! But is it over? Not quite, but it's definitely cooling off. I was joined by Julian White of Nokomis Energy who reminisced about what the solar industry looked like back in 2007 when he joined a start-up called SolarCity. Now approaching my 12th year in solar, I think about solar job growth into three distinguished parts: 1 - hiring before the ITC was signed into legislation; 2 - hiring after the ITC was signed; and 3 - hiring during the pandemic aka The Great Resignation. The longer span of time needed to fill each position (increased 2-3 weeks), salary increases (up 30%) and the launch of sign-on bonuses which had never existed previously in our industry. On the surface, these trends may sound positive, but I talked about the negative effects on the industry.
I'm extremely concerned about industry-wide salary inequities coming out of the Great Resignation since salaries are rising so fast. I also wonder if capital investors are looking at solar in a new light given the rising costs of solar modules and talent (not just on the labor side). Private equity and infrastructure funds want predictable returns so I worry that solar may not be as attractive with lucrative ROIs as it once was. But I am grateful for the opportunity to address these issues - thanks to the Solar Midwest Expo for having me on stage and thanks to "The Julians" for striking dialogue deeply rooted in my DNA.
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