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Industry Woes

According to SEIA, In 2010, solar energy accounted for just 4% of new U.S. capacity additions; by Q3 of 2019, that figure had risen to 39%. And there is every reason to believe the new decade will be just as big for the industry.

The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) expects “radical change and exponential growth”— including doubling of the number of solar jobs in the U.S. by 2030.

It is evident that solar power is not only the most sustainable and environment friendly mode of power generation but also the fastest employment generation sector in the world. The backbone of this solar industry are the installers. Unfortunately, during this pandemic and lock down, the worst effected lot are also these installers who have carried the heaviest weight on their backs. With lowest rate of sales in this quarter, most solar companies are looking to optimize costs, leading to large scale retrenchments and downsizing.

With this trend continuing, it is imperative that the Federal Government must step in. In this testing time, industry demands a special package from the government. While the wish-list is large, some immediate actions can be helpful in the short run.

Wage Support:

Governments across the world have liberally opened up their wallets to offer wage support to companies who can’t get their workforce to work. Leading example is that of the government of Singapore which has offered upto 75% of wage support for 9 months. The impact of such a step in the US will obviously be gigantic, therefore the support can be extended to companies having upto 50 people and directly linked with the percentage of wages to the turnover.

Relaxation in Loan Repayments:

With revenue at multi-year low, it is not feasible for companies to pay the debt obligation. Debt which was incurred for higher capacities and expansion, is right now draining the lifeblood out of small companies. Government was prompt is issuing liquidity in the financial sector during the 2008 crisis and also during the current pandemic. It is not just important to pump in the liquidity, but also direct the flow of liquidity to sectors where it is most needed. A special package for solar companies to infuse liquidity and defer repayment obligations will help the leveraged players to survive.

Relaxation of Labour Laws:

The industry seeks relaxation in the wage rate and hours of work requirements to all companies who undertake to retain all its employees. With lower hourly rate and liberal policies, more and more employees can be retained.

Extension of Tax-Breaks and subsidy:

The tax rebate offered to home owners for installation of PV panels is requested to be extended by 1 year. This extension will act as the key catalyst for generation of demand and re-vitalise the sector.

Compulsory shift to solar:

The government must declare aggressive targets for compulsory conversion to solar power. We seek that at least 10% solar power goal must be set by the end of this year and steps should be put in place for realization of this target. Thrust should also be to see a shift from capital intensive sectors to labor intensive sectors. Therefore, thermal power should make way for solar.

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