The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) released a request for information (RFI) to better understand what is needed to build out the U.S. solar manufacturing workforce. It seeks to understand the anticipated quantity, quality, and accessibility of solar manufacturing roles, the potential challenges for filling the jobs and training the people. Ultimately, SETO is looking to gather potential solutions for overcoming these barriers.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) delivers the supportive policy needed to increase domestic manufacturing by way of an advanced manufacturing tax credit, known as Section 45X, which provides tax incentives for specific manufactured goods produced and sold in the United States. The credit lasts through 2029 and then begins to phase down.
Other incentives in the IRA include a tax credit for manufacturers of U.S.-made solar equipment, and the domestic content requirement, which incentivizes developers to install U.S.-made equipment. These incentives have effectively stimulated plans for 25 U.S. solar manufacturing facilities across the solar supply chain, according to SETO, representing more than 105 GW of manufacturing capacity.
“With the passage of the IRA, solar energy is poised for significant growth in domestic manufacturing,” said Alejandro Moreno, acting assistant secretary, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “DOE wants to ensure the workforce that will support this growth is an equitable one, with long-term career paths that will revitalize communities across the United States, including underrepresented and historically underserved communities—in line with President Biden’s Justice40 goals.”
The Justice40 Initiative calls for 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities and this includes workforce development.
The RFI will solicit feedback from unions, industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on the challenges and opportunities associated with the unprecedented expansion of the U.S. solar manufacturing workforce. SETO is specifically interested in gaining insight from manufacturers, suppliers, education and training providers, community-based organizations, and workers’ rights organizations, including labor unions.
This RFI pertains to job roles associated with operating U.S.-based manufacturing facilities involved in the production of:
- Solar modules (including crystalline silicon and thin film)
- Semiconductor materials and components (e.g., Si metal, polysilicon, ingots, wafers, cells)
- Materials used to construct solar modules (e.g., solar glass, frames, encapsulants, backsheets, etc.)
- Other equipment associated with solar PV systems.
SETO is also particularly interested in ways in which SETO and other government agencies can help promote an employee-centered, diverse, and inclusive solar manufacturing workforce with access to quality jobs, defined career pathways, and a free and fair chance to join a union. Information received as part of this RFI is expected to inform future strategic programming and is part of a holistic approach across DOE to ensure an equitable clean energy workforce.
The RFI notice includes the questions and instructions for how to respond. Responses are due by 5:00 p.m. ET on June 2, 2023.
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