The enormous potential for EU solar jobs

As the most flexible and low-cost energy source, European solar must expand rapidly to ensure the continent’s energy security and climate goals, so it follows that the solar workforce must expand rapidly too. Two of SolarPower Europe’s latest public projects – the EU Solar Jobs Report 2021 and the #SolarWorks campaign – have sought to analyse and address this growing need. 

The ‘EU Solar Jobs Report 2021’ outlines the EU solar employment landscape in 2020 – 357,000 full time equivalent jobs in solar – and sets out five- and ten-year outlooks based on different ambition levels. Notably, should the European Commission adopt our proposed 45% renewables target for 2030, we could expect EU solar jobs to more than triple to 1.1 million within the decade. Even on current levels of ambition – the proposed 40% RES target by 2030 – solar jobs will still double to 742,000 by the same year. In the medium term the study predicts the creation of 584,000 EU solar jobs by 2025 – a 64% increase in five years. 

In support of solar driving the green, just, transition, the report also notes the capacity for solar to absorb the 500,000 EU workers employed by coal, half of whom can already expect their jobs to be phased-out within the decade.  Solar parks in former coal-intensive regions in Brandenburg, Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia are already creating new clean, safe, jobs to replace those previously offered by coal plants. 

To maximise the opportunity, and meet the necessity, of the growing solar employment sector, the EU Solar Jobs report makes six key policy recommendations:  

  1. Raise EU ambition towards 45% renewable energy target by 2030 – putting the continent on track to achieve the Paris climate ambitions, and reach net-zero by 2050, in the most cost-effective way, while creating 1.1 million jobs.  
  1. Solar is the crucial key to Paris – To reach the 45% RES target, given the cost-leadership and versatility of solar, policymakers need to streamline slow administrative and permitting procedures for its fast deployment. 
  1. Promote a solar industrial strategy for the EU to provide energy security in the long run – with solar expected to take responsibility for the major share of energy generation in a decarbonized economy, the EU must establish a domestic manufacturing industry to protect against supply chain instability.  
  1. Address job bottlenecks – EU Member States must facilitate the urgent training and development of a skilled workforce to fill the increasing number of crucial jobs. Recovery funds can be directed towards the ‘Reskill and upskill programme’ to ensure vocational training graduates are able to find jobs.  
  1. Develop comprehensive policy frameworks for the rooftop segment – Residential, commercial and industrial rooftop PV systems create more jobs than utility-scale systems, because of their higher labour intensity during the installation phase. Therefore, strategies must be rapidly developed to deploy rooftop PV to unlock this massive solar and job potential. 
  1. Promote diversity in the solar industry – Women represent only 32% of renewable energy jobs, access to training programmes is the top priority to improving gender balance in the sector. A more diverse EU workforce in terms of gender, social and ethnic background, sexual orientation would also allow to better utilise the talents and skills of EU workers. 

Through our recently launched #SolarWorks campaign, SolarPower Europe is taking further steps to address policy recommendations four & six. Partnering with Grow with Google, and alongside EuropeOn, the campaign showcases the diverse range of careers in the solar sector and connects potential solar workers with the right training to get them started. 

As part of the campaign, SolarPower Europe have produced #SolarWorks videos in the markets where major solar growth is forecast: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain. The video series tells the stories of current solar workers on various sites, from an agri-PV plant, floating solar installation to manufacturing facility, where they share their experience and advice on kickstarting a solar career. 

The #SolarWorks campaign website sets out introductory information on the sector for potential solar workers, and provides direct links to training opportunities in the key markets identified.  

There is a career for everyone in solar – let’s ensure/enforce a strong and growing solar workforce! 

Photo: Alight

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