Solar Power Lights Up Economic Gloom

REA analysis shows employment in the UK solar power sector is likely to greatly exceed previous estimates.

The REA has carried out an analysis of REAL Assurance Scheme membership data - which had first been aggregated and anonymised - to show that the UK solar sector now employs around 25,000 people.  This means 22,000 more people are employed in the solar industry than when the UK Feed-In Tariff (FIT) scheme began last year.

REA Technical Director, Stuart Pocock said; “80% of the jobs in solar are in installations and this is borne out by these figures. Solar modules are typically only half the cost. The other half is big labour needs, and this means thousands of companies and employees - who will all be paying tax to HM Treasury.”

The figure of 25,000 people employed in the sector has been derived by taking a mid-range assumption on employment levels of members of the REAL Assurance Scheme, which asks companies to identify their size by employment size brackets [1]. This includes self-employed individuals acting on behalf of a member company. The REAL Assurance Scheme Consumer Code sets out high standards of consumer protection in the small-scale generation sector [2].

The figure is likely to be an underestimate as the REAL Assurance Scheme members work primarily installing solar in the domestic sector.  The figure also excludes a wide range of new manufacturing and supporting jobs (for example legal, accounting and project developers).

The data shows there are now 4,000 solar companies registered with REAL in the UK. At the current rate of registrations there could be 7,000 further jobs by April 2011. In addition to installation companies, the UK has over 60 companies working in the solar manufacturing supply chain and 6 solar manufacturing/assembly plants.  There are important new solar manufacturing opportunities in the electric vehicle charging and commercial roofing sector, with large export potential [3].

Last Spring REA and STA advised DECC to reduce all the solar FIT rates by 25% - not least to extend the capacity that can be delivered under the current budget [4].  Solar has proved by far the most popular technology under the FIT scheme with 81,000 UK homes now benefiting.

Stuart Pocock said; “Solar is rapidly creating jobs while greening UK homes and offices, and reducing energy bills.  We want to see more ambition and vision from Government to sustain these jobs and secure big new solar manufacturing opportunities in the UK, with huge export potential.”

The REA and STA are urging the Government to strengthen the UK’s position in the booming global solar market by increasing investment and establishing a clear pathway to grid parity.  Ernst and Young estimate non-domestic solar will reach competitiveness with retail electricity prices by 2017 [5] . The analysis was carried out before major recent rises in energy bills suggesting competitiveness is likely to be reached even earlier.

Stuart concluded; "Not only can this technology deliver the jobs and green buildings we need today, but costs are falling faster than any other energy generation technology in the world. So by investing in UK solar jobs and companies today, UK companies can deliver a subsidy-free solar revolution to millions of consumers tomorrow. It's an elegant and timely win-win-win."

There are currently no comments for this article.

Login to comment. slider