Solar Jobs Decline in California: A CALSSA Perspective

Understanding the Solar Jobs Decline in California

In recent years, the solar energy sector has been a beacon of hope for jobs and environmental goals. However, a concerning trend has emerged in California, where the solar job market experienced a significant decline in 2023. This blog explores the factors behind this downturn and sheds light on the implications for the state’s renewable energy goals. According to

After surveying California solar and storage companies, the solar industry lobbying group estimated that approximately 17,000 jobs have or will be lost by the end of this year due to the recent net metering changes. This massive loss of employment represents 22% of all solar jobs in the state, with more expected soon.

The State of Solar Jobs in California

California has long been at the forefront of the solar energy revolution, boasting the largest solar market in the United States. However, according to recent data, the state lost 22% of its solar jobs in 2023. This startling statistic raises questions about the health of the solar industry in California and the factors contributing to this decline.

Analyzing the Factors

On key factor that contributed to the decline in solar jobs in California is the rolling out of NEM 3, a revised net metering policy that gutted the economics for residential and commercial solar in California. Thanks to the CPUC lobbied by the electric utilities, NEM 3 compared to NEM 2, nearly doubled the average return on investment payback period for solar. As the solar industry evolves and matures, regulatory uncertainty and policy shifts can create challenges for solar developers and contractors, impacting job growth in the sector.

Region Estimated Jobs   Lost  Counties 
Pacific North 664 Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, Trinity
Sierra North 1,291 Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter,   Tehama, Yolo, Yuba
Bay Area 2,705 Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma
Central Valley 3,167 Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, Sacramento, San   Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne
Central Coast 665 Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz
Los Angeles 3,010 Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange
Inland & Desert 2,848 Riverside, San Bernardino
San Diego 2,651 San Diego, Imperial

Impact of Regulatory Changes

California’s ambitious renewable energy goals have historically driven growth in the solar sector. However, shifts in regulatory priorities or changes in incentive programs can disrupt the market dynamics, affecting investor confidence and project viability.


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The layoffs follow the California Public Utilities Commission’s decision last year to revise the state’s net metering policy in California.

Under net metering, homes with solar are paid for the extra energy they generate and send into the energy grid. With the latest revisions, referred to as NEM 3.0, new rooftop solar customers are no longer credited at the retail electricity rate when they generate extra energy. Instead, they are paid at the “actual avoided cost.”

That figure is lower during daylight hours but higher during evening hours as the sun sets and solar production drops off.

According to the California Solar and Storage Association, the changes cut the value of solar energy credits by 75% to encourage customers to purchase solar battery storage instead of feeding excess energy back into the grid.

Lessons from Other States

While California grapples with the decline in solar jobs, other states have embraced innovative approaches to solar development. For instance, some states in the Northeast have incentivized solar development on decommissioned landfills and brownfields, unlocking new opportunities for solar projects. By learning from these examples, California can explore alternative pathways for solar expansion and job creation.

The Role of Community Solar

Community solar projects present a promising avenue for solar development, particularly in areas with limited space or regulatory constraints. By leveraging community solar models, California can overcome barriers to solar deployment and engage local communities in the transition to renewable energy. Exploring the potential of community solar initiatives may offer new avenues for job creation and economic growth in the state.

Challenges and Opportunities

Building solar projects on landfills and brownfields presents unique challenges, including regulatory hurdles and environmental considerations. However, these sites also offer significant opportunities for repurposing underutilized land and revitalizing local economies. By addressing regulatory barriers and leveraging state support, California can unlock the full potential of solar development on these sites, driving job growth and advancing its clean energy objectives.


The decline in solar jobs in California demonstrates the need for strategic planning and policy action to support the state’s renewable energy transition. By examining the factors contributing to this decline and drawing lessons from successful solar initiatives in other states, California can chart a path forward for sustainable solar growth and job creation. As the state grapples with the challenges of a shifting energy landscape, collaboration between industry stakeholders, policymakers, and community leaders will be essential to realize the full potential of solar energy in California.