With the world focusing on climate change, more and more people are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. The way to do this is to switch to a low-carbon economy, and much of the developed world are doing just that. Solar energy is a perfect example of an eco-friendly, low-carbon industry. As the world turns its attention to renewable energy and green jobs, Virginia must adapt its economy to take advantage of this new paradigm shift.
The Rise of the Solar Industry In Virginia
Over the last few years, the solar industry has boomed in Virginia, emerging as a significant economic force in the state. In 2016, Virginia’s solar power industry boasted 146 new jobs, an increase of 28% from the year before. This was matched by an increase in average hourly earnings, climbing 13% year-on-year to $25.56.
These figures point to a potentially bright future for the state’s growing solar power industry. However, while solar energy represents an opportunity for thousands of Virginians, it’s also created significant challenges for the state. There is considerable competition for jobs in the industry, and much of the available work is seen as low-skilled, low-paying jobs that don’t require a degree.
Green Energy And The Skills Shortage
While the solar industry has benefited from a surge in demand for low-carbon energy, the state as a whole has not seen the same level of employment opportunities. The bulk of the new jobs have been created in rural areas, where the industry has made the most inroads. Meanwhile, there has been a notable skills shortage in the state, with hundreds of people now looking for jobs in the solar industry each month. In fact, in some areas, such as commercial installation, there has been a shortfall of 500 potential employees a month.
This is something that the state’s economic development teams will need to work hard to address if they want to ensure that all Virginians benefit from the state’s new green economy. Without a significant increase in the number of graduate-level jobs, the rural areas of the state will continue to lose out to the more established cities, where skilled jobs in solar energy are already in high demand.