More Solar Jobs in Massachusetts than Natural Gas Jobs in Pennsylvania

I wanted to give a shout out to our good friend John Hanger for picking up this story on his blog. Massachusetts has twice as many jobs in clean energy than Pennsylvania has in natural gas. This is pretty noteworthy in light of a solar industry that is nearly extinct in Pennsylvania.

First the facts: MA has 64,000 jobs in clean energy with more than 38,000 in solar alone according to Greentech Media. John Hanger points out that PA has create 30,000 jobs in natural gas according to a state report.

So here’s the story beneath the numbers as far as I see it. Massachusetts and Pennsylvania both began supporting clean energy about a decade ago under Gov. Rendell in PA and Romney in MA. In PA it started with utility-scale wind farms and Community Energy was a big part of it. Gamesa came to manufacture turbines and has since left. In MA, it was more efficiency and small wind.

Pennsylvania established a robust solar power industry before Massachusetts with its first round of Sunshine Rebates in 2009. Commercial and residential developers and installation companies popped up all over the state from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Lancaster County was a hub because the Amish aren’t opposed to electricity (contrary to popular belief), they just don’t want to be connected to the electric grid. They love solar. When the PA solar industry crash became apparent in 2010-2011, Gov. Corbett and the state legislature had opportunities to prevent it and keep the industry growing and creating jobs. Instead they focused exclusively on natural gas and the solar companies fled to Massachusetts and Connecticut where solar power was just getting underway.

And here are the results: According to PennFuture, solar jobs in PA declined from 6,700 in 2010 to 4,700 in 2011. Anecdotally, we know they have continued to fall ever since. At the same time MA has grown to 38,000 jobs in solar while PA has created 30,000 in natural gas. Responsibly harvested natural gas and solar could make great partners. Solar provides fairly reliable peak production, but we know that cloud cover has a huge impact on actual generation. Gas could stand by to shore up the solar and create truly reliable baseline generation. And imagine 68,000 jobs in PA between natural gas and solar. Now that’s building a sustainable future.