New studies reveal solar’s tremendous job-creation potential

Two new studies released this past week centre on the immense employment potential from renewable technologies, with solar emerging as the most job-intensive energy source. A report from Finland’s LUT (Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology), titled “Job creation during the global energy transition towards 100% renewable power system by 2050” is the first global study to assess the employment opportunities of different energy sectors, comparing the 2015 data against 2050 projections, and calculating the total number of energy jobs in manufacturing, construction and installation, O&M, and decommissioning.

Based on a 100% renewable electricity scenario, the study found of all the energy sectors, solar offers the most employment potential, creating 1.73 million jobs in Europe by 2050, which accounts for 51% of all European energy jobs. Further, battery storage will create nearly 300,000 jobs in Europe by 2050. Globally, the solar sector will account for 22.2 million jobs by 2050, representing 64% of all energy jobs around the world. The battery sector will also grow to employ 4.5 million people globally by 2050. O&M jobs across all sectors will grow to account for 52% of all energy positions by 2050, up from 15% in 2015.

Dr Christian Breyer, Professor for Solar Economy at LUT University and co-author of the study, said: “Solar PV will be the strongest driver for new jobs in the energy sector, supported by jobs in the field of battery storage. It is an economic rationale to invest in solar as the lowest-cost source of electricity. For balanced renewable solutions PV, wind and battery storage will represent the lion share of newly added capacities. Policies not supporting a fast ramp up of these capacities lead to unrealised jobs, and missed green growth and tax income opportunities in Europe and around the world.”

A new JRC report titled, “Energy transition can provide alternative for jobs at risk in coal regions”, details that in over 50% of European coal regions, transitioning to clean energy will result in more jobs than currently exist. The switch to renewables in coal regions can create 315,000 jobs by 2030 and as many as 460,000 jobs by 2050. This will require significant investment, as outlined in the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, the financing strategy of the European Green Deal.

This report builds on an earlier JRC study that found solar to be particularly suitable for employing former coal workers and for driving regional development. As former coal sites have untapped solar potential, they become an attractive business opportunity for solar installation, creating local and highly-skilled jobs.

Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe, said: “The results of these two new studies are crystal clear: more solar means more jobs. Solar holds astounding employment potential, unparalleled to any other energy technology and is particular suitable in helping former coal regions transition to clean energy. Within the context of the European Green Deal, we now have a generation-defining opportunity of developing a 100%-renewables energy system that will bring hundreds of thousands of new green jobs, as well as vast environmental and economic benefits.”

Photo: © The Norwegian Solar Energy Cluster / Photographer: Kristin Svorte.

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