The European solar sector is poised for dramatic expansion over the next four years as the market starts to realise the full benefit of plummeting costs and countries scramble to hit clean energy targets.
A new report released today from consultancy EY on behalf of Solar Power Europe predicts job creation could grow by as much as 470 per cent between now and 2021 in some countries, with Spain, Greece, and Poland tipped to enjoy rapid expansion over the coming years.
Overall, an extra 94,000 new solar jobs are expected to be created by 2021, the report said, taking the sector’s total full-time employment count to almost 175,000 and generating nearly €12.5bn in gross value added (GVA) for the bloc’s economy.
The paper suggests the sharp increase in employment will be driven by countries finally realising the full benefits of the dramatic drop in the cost of solar energy that has been seen in recent years, combined with fresh efforts to meet national renewable energy targets for 2020.
“As a result of the strategic plans developed by European countries to increase the shares of renewables in their energy mix, countries with ambitious forecasts of new installed capacities (e.g. France, Italy, Spain) show an acceleration of the number of job support downstream of the value chain,” the report notes. “2021 new installed capacities will be three to 20 times the capacities installed in 2016. This has a direct effect on engineering and installation related jobs.”
If the predictions prove accurate they would herald a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the solar sector, which boomed between 2008 and 2011 then suffered a sharp slowdown after a swathe of regulatory and subsidy changes took effect across Europe.
Proposals from EU lawmakers to raise renewable energy ambition across the trading bloc could also help drive a massive expansion in solar activity, EY predicts.
Under legislation currently making its way through the EU, countries could be expected to source 35 per cent of their final energy consumption from renewables by 2030 – a step up from the current target of 27 per cent. If the target is approved, job provision would increase by 56 per cent in the solar industry alone, the report predicts.
Similarly, the report suggests the removal of anti-dumping measures, which prevent international manufacturers from flooding the EU market with cheaper panels, would create an additional 45,500 direct and indirect jobs in EU solar.
Solar installers have long argued the EU should drop the minimum pricing requirement that it has placed on imported Chinese panels in order to cut the cost of the technology. But some of the handful of solar PV manufacturers that remain in Europe continue to allege that the rules are required to combat ‘dumping’ by Chinese firms.