Last week’s report by Connecticut lawmakers and renewable energy supporters concludes that the state could create 2,580 new full time jobs in 2018 by enacting a statewide community solar program. The report, Community Solar: Ready to Work for Connecticut says such a project would create $370 million in local economic benefits as well as $6 million in tax revenue. The study also says that community solar will increase fair market competition, enhancing consumers’ power to choose.
But so far, there’s a couple of snags.
A more recent survey commissioned by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and developed with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s (CBIA) Education & Workforce Partnership found that 57% of businesses surveyed have trouble finding qualified entry-level workers. In other areas, 73% said prospective workers didn’t have the needed technical skills and certifications, and 45% pointed out applicants lacked backgrounds with problem solving, communication, and teamwork skills.
Both CBIA and DEEP recommend the state’s regional workforce development boards begin pushing energy sector jobs through job training and high school education programs. Connecticut has 63,000 jobs in the energy industry, with the highest demand in HVAC and plumbing.
Meanwhile, Connecticut’s Shared Clean Energy Facilities program has struggled over the past two years to approve and build just one 6 MW community solar pilot project. Massachusetts has at least 60 such projects under development.
Most Connecticut residents and businesses who want roof top solar can’t because of too much shade, wrongly aligned, small size, or they don’t control their roof because they rent. Community solar arrays allow subscribing customers to receive a credit from their electric company and apply it to their monthly bill. Electric companies in Connecticut, however, are not big fans of the idea. After all, they still need to maintain the poles and wires to distribute the electricity but they won’t make as much money.
Plus, the more customers that get involved, the higher the administrative costs. To that end, DEEP’s responsibility has been to develop a practical program that attracts investors and grows.
But will it all — the jobs, the trained workforce, and the projects — all come together at the same time? Let’s hope so.