Photo: Host MEP Reinhard Butikofer with SolarPower Europe's CEO, James Watson, and President, Christian Westermeier

Editorial: 94,000 new solar jobs to be created in Europe by 2021

By: James Watson, CEO


On 6th November we launched, together with global consultancy EY, our latest Solar PV Jobs and Value Added in Europe report. This new report built on the previous study of 2015 and examined the state of play in the European solar sector in 2016. The report made tough reading. Since 2008 more than 200,000 jobs have been lost in the solar sector in Europe, primarily in the downstream sector and geographically in Spain. This is a cold hard fact and reflects the varying fortune of our sector in the past few years. In 2016 solar employed around 81,000 people in Europe and provided a value of about 4,6 billion Euros to the European economy.

Given these difficult numbers, we launched the report in the European Parliament to create awareness of the importance policy has on the development of solar in Europe and also because the future of solar is currently in the hands of the European legislators as they assess and amend the proposed Clean Energy Package. We were fortunate to have the support of the Director General for Energy in the Commission, Dominique Ristori, give a keynote speech where he outlined that the future of energy and our economy must be built on technologies like solar. This was echoed by the two hosting MEPs, Reinhard Buetikofer from the Greens and Marijana Petir from the Centre Right European People's Party, the Parliaments largest group, who both called for more ambition in policy to support solar.

This is exactly what the report highlighted, the need for more ambition. If Europe meets its 2020 renewable energy targets, solar will grow to 175,000 European jobs and 9,5 billion Euro of economic value. This is a positive element in the story, but the key is what happens then. Currently the renewable energy target for 2030 is just 27%, only 7% more than where we should be in 2020, EY modeled the effect of moving to 35% on solar jobs and found that another 120,000 would be created bringing the grand total close to 350,000 solar jobs by 2030. Thus it is clear that more ambition is needed and that is why we have been calling for 35% as a renewable target for 2030 for 18 months now.

The report also highlighted the fact that EU trade defence measures do have an impact on employment. If we want a quick win in terms of job creation, we can remove the trade measures and this would result in almost 50,000 new jobs across Europe in 2019 alone! So there are some very quick policy wins that can drive more solar jobs and economic value in Europe.

Overall, the outlook is positive. Our sector is set to grow, the only question is how much and how fast. We in SolarPower Europe will push for the policies that support our sector to grow quickly and sustainably.

Finally I must thank the sponsors of the report, without their generosity this highly useful report would not have been possible to produce.