EU solar jobs potential to triple to 1.1 million in 2030

Los empleos en el sector solar en la UE podrían triplicarse y llegar a 1,1 millones en 2030
Foto/Photo: Meyer Burguer

SolarPower Europe has published its “EU Solar Jobs Report 2021”. Based on the existing European Commission renewables target of 40% by 2030, SolarPower Europe expects solar jobs to double to 742,000 by the end of the decade.

However, to put the continent on the most cost-efficient track to meet Paris Agreement commitments and achieve 2050 carbon neutrality, today’s report calls on the European Commission to adopt a target of 45% renewables by 2030. Following this necessary climate ambition, the report forecasts that the number of solar jobs in the EU will triple to 1.1 million within the decade.

As the continent progresses towards its 2030 and 2050 climate ambitions, EU solar PV energy is steadily growing, with associated solar job-creation expanding rapidly. This study quantifies the number of jobs created directly and indirectly by the EU solar sector today and gives an outlook for 2025 and 2030. It uses a hybrid methodology that considers the different steps of the PV value chain: manufacturing, deployment, O&M and decommissioning & recycling.

357,000 full-time equivalent jobs (FTEs) were created in the EU solar sector in 2020, a massive increase from SolarPower’s 81,000 estimate for 2016. 150,000 FTEs, 42% of the total, are direct jobs, while 207,000 are indirect jobs. The vast majority of jobs (80%) are associated with solar deployment activities. O&M accounts for 10% of the total, with the remaining share belonging to manufacturing, at 6%, with decommissioning & recycling at 4%.

Out of the total 23,000 jobs created by manufacturing, inverter manufacturing provides nearly half, about 11,000 direct and indirect FTEs. Polysilicon production and module production provide 29% and 22% of total manufacturing jobs, respectively. Due to the lack of production capacity for ingots/wafers and cells in the EU, less than 1,000 jobs are created by these activities.

This study provides a five-year outlook for solar job creation in the EU, based on the scenarios developed by SolarPower Europe’s “Global Market Outlook 2021-2025”. Thanks to the robust growth of the annual market expected in 2021, solar jobs are also set to rise significantly, with a 30% increase year-on-year, resulting in 463,000 FTEs. According to SolarPower Europe’s Medium scenario, further growth could lead to 584,000 jobs in 2025, in other words, a 64% growth compared to 2020 levels.

Job creation projections associated with manufacturing vary considerably depending on the ability to meet the European Solar Initiative 2025 goal to establish a production base equivalent to 20 GW production per annum across the whole value chain by 2025. Meeting this ambitious goal would result in 74,000 FTEs, while a less ambitious, business-as-usual scenario expects only 32,000 FTEs. Partly meeting the ESI target, which is SolarPower Europe’s central scenario, would signify the creation of 51,000 manufacturing jobs, a 121% growth compared to 2020 levels.

Furthermore, the report assesses solar job creation potential as regards the EU’s renewable energy targets for 2030. With a 40% RES target, as proposed by the European Commission, solar jobs would double, compared to today’s levels, reaching 742,000 FTEs in 2030. However, with the 45% target put forward by SolarPower Europe, and an increased ambition for solar power’s contribution to enable a more cost-efficient EU energy transition, solar jobs would triple, totalling 1.1 million FTEs by the same year.

SolarPower Europe’s report, published with the support of the Vlerick Business School, is the third of its kind, following the first edition in 2016. Going forward, the report will be published annually. The increased regularity of the publication reflects the rapid development of the EU solar sector and the need for expert research around this crucial energy technology.