The solar boom is creating a million job opportunities
Reaching our climate goals requires massively ramping up our clean technologies, including solar PV. In turn, manufacturing, deploying, managing and recycling solar will require a lot of hands. At SolarPower Europe, we estimate that to reach our 2030 target for solar installations, the sector will need 1 million people in direct and indirect jobs.
Where are we today? The sector currently employs around half a million people in 2023. We only have 6 and a half years to double this number.
Many different workers are needed in this transition: engineers, electricians, architects, installers, designers, asset managers, lawyers and more. You can have a look at our jobs guide here.
As the energy sector is moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewables, one could simply assume that workers could quickly switch from coal, oil and gas, to solar and wind. However, those are different occupations that often require different skills and qualifications.
As our jobs report indicates, the vast majority of solar jobs - almost 80% - will be in installations. Climbing up on a roof, installing a mounting structure, placing modules, connecting them to an inverter and then to the electrical grid are some of the most needed skills this decade. Those are the ones that will enable our continent to cut back on imported fossil fuels, regain control over energy prices and fight climate change.
Our sector is doing its best to attract the talents it needs, for instance via our #SolarWorks platform. However, public institutions need to support the efforts. Here are three ideas for how they can do that:
Installing solar systems requires skills that are found in various professions: construction workers, electricians and more. One idea would be to create modular apprenticeships for the position of “solar worker” or “solar installer”. This would be an employee capable of carrying out the entire installation, up to the electrical installation in direct current, to the inverter. Training people directly to do this job would make installations significantly more efficient and allow people to specialise in one of the sectors with the highest demand growth.
One of the greatest perks of the European Union is the Schengen Agreement. Europeans can travel from one end of the Schengen area to the other and never go through border controls. However, if you take the example of electricians, this is still not exactly the case. Certifications still vary from country to country in the EU, meaning that for a Czech willing to install panels in the Netherlands, they would need to go through a training scheme again, and earn a new certification. Member States need to discuss this issue together, along with European institutions, and find a way to harmonise this system. This would allow for faster cross-border recruitment and posting of workers inside Schengen, but also from third countries, and for workers to change jobs more easily.
Once again, the transition will be achieved through a lot of manual work. Governments must make this very clear when reviewing their education system. When having to choose their path, young students must be encouraged to go, not only to general, theoretical education, but also to physical, vocational apprenticeships. Those will equip young people with the right skills to make a key difference in our fight against climate change. After all, solar workers are the foot soldiers of the energy transition!